"I can assure the member there is no shortage of vaccines" - Assoc. Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter (Greens-List) to Dr Shane Reti (Nat-Whg) Oral Q8, House of Parliament, Sept 11, 2019.
You have got to be joking minister! If there is no shortage of measles vaccine why were 1.3 million 30 to 50-year-old New Zealanders removed from the vaccination schedule a week ago?
Read more : Vaccines being redistributed after GPs run out
If there is no shortage of measles vaccines why were one million 15-29 year olds out of Auckland removed from the vaccination schedule last week ?
If there is no shortage of measles vaccines why are parents being turned away in their hundreds from GP surgeries because there are no vaccines?
"I can assure the member there is no shortage of vaccines" - sorry minister, no one believes you, I don't believe you and the New Zealand public doesn't believe you.
New Zealanders would be disappointed but understanding if you simply told us there just wasn't enough vaccines because of international outbreaks.
However, New Zealanders have now gone well past being disappointed and are feeling deceived that you are maintaining this ridiculous no vaccine shortage line when they and their children are having the lived experience of being turned away.
Last week the Waikato District Health Board was in the unenviable position of having to tell significant townships like Waihi and Thames they would only get 10 single measles vaccines each.
The MP for Coromandel, Hon Scott Simpson, was telling me there are hundreds of people in these towns and many children and he can't imagine how you would choose who gets measles protection and who doesn't with only 10 vaccines.
This is a terrible situation to be in and we all get it and will work together to figure it out but the minister needs to at least be honest that there is a measles vaccine shortage.
I also have concerns for the damage this may do to vaccination behaviour. Our medical people work really hard to encourage vaccination and take every encounter as an opportunity to check vaccine status – opportunistic screening.
I am concerned people who may be ambivalent to vaccination may have heard about the measles outbreak and turned up at medical centres and been turned away. This is an opportunity lost and my hope is that these people will give the system another chance and return.
I trust our health professionals and I'm sure they simply told people the truth, that there are not enough vaccines but we will let you know when there is.
Here's what we need to do. We need to urgently acquire more vaccines and return the vaccine guidelines to include the nearly 50 per cent of New Zealanders who have been cut out.
Note to self: deprioritising New Zealanders to cover vaccine shortages is not an acceptable strategy. We need to authorise vaccinating pharmacists to also give the measles vaccine.
We need to restore health targets. We need to rebuild public trust that we have got vaccination covered. A good starting place minister is the truth – there is a measles vaccine shortage.
• Dr Shane Reti is MP for Whangārei.