Children of Asian descent have reportedly been denied a measles vaccination because they were not Māori or Pasifika.

National list MP Melissa Lee told Parliament during question time that she had been contacted by a Mt Albert resident, a friend of the family, who said their 5 and 8-year-olds were turned away by a doctor on Monday.

Lee said the children's mother had offered to pay for the vaccinations but told her the doctor declined to provide them because Māori and Pasifika children were the priority.

Many clinics have been forced to ration vaccinations in the past few weeks as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise daily and stocks ran low. While DHBs agree children under 4 are a priority there seems to be different positions when it comes to ethnicity .


Lee was shocked at the incident and said all children should be equal when it comes to getting vaccinations.

"Well it seems they're not, if they happen to be Asian."

The family did not want to speak to the media, but the family friend sent an email to Lee about her experience.

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter – the Minister in charge of the Government's response to the measles outbreak – told the Herald she was not aware of this specific case.

"The guidelines which have been issued by the Ministry and District Health Boards are quite clear that the childhood immunisation schedule should be maintained – it has nothing to do with ethnicity."

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter comforting her son Joaquin as a nurse prepares to give him his MMR injection in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchel
Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter comforting her son Joaquin as a nurse prepares to give him his MMR injection in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchel

When it comes to specific cases, such as the one outlined by Lee in Parliament, Genter said ultimately it would come down to the specifics of the clinics.

"But that is not the guidance that has been issued by the Ministry."

Gentre said she had asked officials to follow up on the issue.


The Herald has sought comment from Auckland DHB.

On its website, the Ministry of Health (MOH) advises that its priorities in Auckland were children under 4 and those aged 15-29 years old and Pacific peoples as they are "the groups who are most affected".

In a statement, MOH said its priority was to ensure all children receive their MMR vaccinations on time at 15 months and 4 years to maintain the national Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners Medical Director, Dr Bryan Betty, said the basic reason there was a priority list was due to the limited supply of MMR vaccines.

"There has been a huge amount of vaccine that has been used over the course of this measles outbreak and there is now a shortage of supply," he said, noting there were more vaccines coming in.

Northland District Health Board has put out a notice saying the outbreak has created pressure across the health system, particularly in Auckland.

As a result it was prioritising vaccinations, but ethnicity isn't mentioned.

"Until further notice, Northland DHB and general practice are focusing on the following age groups as a priority for MMR vaccination: Children 12-15 months and 4 years (under 5 years of age)."

Waikato DHB has said in a statement that its priority was "Māori and Pacific children".

"Given there is limited vaccine, our highest priority for scheduled childhood vaccinations are Māori and Pacific, who are currently the most affected in Waikato's and Auckland's measles outbreak," the statement said.

"By focusing limited supply on this group, we can help reduce the risk of further spread in the community."

Linda Elgar, a clinician in Waikato, told RNZ the national vaccination rate for six-month-olds is down to just 61 per cent for Māori babies.

"Māori and Pasifika, they're at far greater risk than non-Māori and Pacific groups. They have higher rates of measles and needing care in hospital.

"We just want to do our bit to serve our Māori community."

On Sunday 52,000 doses of the vaccine arrived; the first half were being distributed around the country while the second half were being kept to replenish stocks where needed and focus on the Auckland outbreak.

The Ministry of Health yesterday announced an additional 100,000 doses of the MMR vaccine have been secured for New Zealand.

As of yesterday there were 1366 confirmed cases of measles, 1137 of which were in the Auckland region.

Betty said it was "really, really important" that certain groups were prioritised when it comes to vaccines.

He said other people who need a vaccine but are not on the priority list, have been put onto a recall list so when a vaccine becomes available, they can have a vaccination.