Some GP clinics are offering babies as young as 6 months an early dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine as the measles outbreak reaches new highs.
But a South Auckland mum is warning parents not to pay for the extra vaccination after a nurse at her local clinic mistakenly told her the shot would cost $40.
Parents in areas like South Auckland have been asking for their babies aged 6-11 months to be given an early MMR shot, fearing they are extremely vulnerable amid the worst outbreak of measles in decades.
But although some GPs are readily vaccinating babies, other parents report being turned away or told they will be charged.
Papatoetoe woman Angela Pritchard went to Bakerfield Medical in Manukau to get her daughter Sophia an early dose of vaccine.
The 11-month-old was spending time at kids' groups like Mainly Music and could easily be exposed to the highly contagious disease, Pritchard said.
She says she was told there would be no charge. But a few days later, she says she received a call from a nurse wanting to schedule Sophia's 12-month shots. She was told they would cost $40 because Sophia was only entitled to two free vaccinations under the schedule and had already had one free.
Pritchard refused to pay, and she then spoke to a nurse who told her it wouldn't cost anything.
Bakerfield acknowledged a junior nurse had mistakenly told Pritchard she would have to pay $40 for one of her daughter's measles shots, although it said there had been some confusion about which one.
They apologised, saying information from the Ministry of Health was changing frequently and it had only been two weeks since the ministry had agreed to fund MMR for under-12 month-olds.
Any parents who wanted their babies aged under 1 to get an early shot before their main scheduled vaccinations should come in and do so - they would not be charged, a Bakerfield Medical spokesperson said.
Pritchard said she was happy with the outcome and Bakerfield had done the right thing. But she worried that other parents may not know to push back at their own GPs.
When she posted to Facebook about her experience, one parent said their GP had tried to charge $25 and others said they had had the vaccine for free.
She wanted to make sure people in the area knew what their options were.
"$40 to me is not that much. But I teach in that area, and there are lots of parents who can't even get food on the table. Are you going to charge them for something they're expecting should be free?" she asked.
"We live in a low-decile area overall. It should be accessible if it's appropriate to give it to a 6-12-month-old baby and the mother wants it done."
Auckland has been the worst affected by measles with 877 cases since January 1 - 633 of them in the Counties Manukau DHB area. Nationally 1051 cases of measles have been confirmed this year.
Children normally receive their first MMR dose at 15 months but this has been brought forward to 12 months in Auckland because of the outbreak.
But authorities are also advising parents to talk to their GP about getting an extra MMR shot between 6-11 months if they think their baby is at high risk - such as in an area where measles is actively circulating.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman confirmed GPs were subsidised by the Government to provide the vaccine for free to eligible patients.
"The MMR vaccine can be given to children as young as 6 months old after consultation with their doctor. As per the Pharmaceutical Schedule, MMR vaccine is free for those under 50 years who have not had two documented doses," she said.
Any babies vaccinated before 12 months will still need their normal two vaccinations on schedule, at 12 months (or 15 months outside Auckland) and 4 years old.
Measles: The facts
• Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that causes skin rash and fever. It spreads easily through the air by sneezing or coughing.
• Between 1-2 cases in every 1000 are fatal. Measles kills more than 50 per cent of children with low immunity, such as cancer patients.
• Symptoms usually begin to show 10-14 days after infection.
• The illness begins with fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (inflammation in the eyes), lasting 2-4 days.
• A rash appears 2-4 days after the first symptoms, beginning at the hairline and spreading down the body. The rash lasts up to one week.
• You can have measles and spread it to others before you feel sick or show symptoms. You can spread measles to others from five days before until five days after your rash appears.
• Measles can be caught by breathing the same air as an infected person, such as sitting next to them on the bus. The virus can live up to two hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. It also spreads by contact with surfaces contaminated with an infected person's nose and throat secretions.
• If you have been near someone with measles, and don't know if you're immune, seek medical advice immediately and stay in quarantine at home.
• The best protection against measles is to get two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
• Babies can get their first dose at 12 months in Auckland and 15 months elsewhere.
• The vaccine is free for under-50s; older people are presumed to be immune.
• Many teens and young people don't have records of their vaccinations. They may have had only one shot or none at all.
• If you're unsure whether you're fully vaccinated, check with your doctor. An extra dose of the MMR vaccine is not harmful.