In May last year Northland had its first two cases of meningitis W. Over the following winter seven Northland people developed meningitis and three children died. October 2018 was the "death month" with three children affected and two of those dying.
I first became concerned in May 2018 when a district health board specialist told the GP conference in Russell he was very concerned children would die from meningitis W that winter.
I didn't know much about the W strain but over the years I had seen the B and C strains as a GP here in Whangārei. It turns out the W strain is one of the most dangerous and has caused outbreaks in Australia and the UK.
Over the past year we have been piecing together the bits of a puzzle that just didn't seem right. Where was the Ministry of Health in this, who was watching Northland and who was making plans ?
The Reti Report is now 100 pages and five chapters and will be given to the health select committee this week in support of the 100s of Northland people who signed the Northland meningitis outbreak petition from Northland MP Matt King and myself.
We have now been able to join the dots together and it is a story of huge concern that the people of Northland need answers to.
When the Northland meningitis outbreak was declared by the Ministry of Health on November 8, we were all told that due to international supply and demand there were not enough vaccines to protect all children and this was why 5-12 year olds would miss out.
We mostly understood the "not enough vaccines" argument although I went on TV One over Christmas continuing to make the case there appeared to be plenty in private supply if you wanted to pay $140.
Myself and other local people continued to lobby for the 20,000 5- to 12-year-old Northland children who were ineligible and indeed as recently as last month the Hikurangi community privately fund raised $20,000 and together we vaccinated 170 children at Hikurangi Primary School.
When I grilled the minister in the House last year about why 5- to 12-year old Northland children were missing out he continued to say there was a vaccine shortage.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came to Waitangi this year I placed a half page ad in the Advocate asking her, on behalf of the Northland people, to please address the 5- to 12-year-old children in Northland who were missing out on the meningitis vaccine.
She replied in writing that there was a vaccine shortage and she was proud of the vaccines that Pharmac had found. If you go to the Northland DHB website at the time of writing this it reads that the reason 5- to 12-year-olds were not vaccinated for meningitis was because there were not enough vaccines.
We now know this is not true. Two weeks ago a major meningitis vaccine manufacturer wrote to me and said, Dr Reti, we just need to let you know that before the outbreak was declared we offered Pharmac 30,000 meningitis vaccines and we didn't hear back from them.
There are 20,000 5- to 12-year-old Northland children who were ineligible for the meningitis vaccine and yet before the outbreak was even declared Pharmac was offered 30,000 vaccines! Maybe Pharmac didn't like those particular vaccines. We now know that is not true because in December Pharmac bought 5000 of the company's vaccines.
The local people I have spoken to this week feel betrayed. A few months ago we had our first Northland case of meningitis W this year in a 7-month-old child. Maybe that child would have been protected if all children under 20 had been vaccinated.
We just don't know. What we do know is that the people of Northland have been betrayed by Health Minister David Clark and Jacinda Ardern and they need answers.
How much did David Clark know about the extra vaccines?
How much did Jacinda Ardern know about the extra vaccines?
How much did Pharmac save by not vaccinating 20,000 Northland children?
The people of Northland need answers.
• Dr Shane Reti is the Member of Parliament for Whangarei.