The Whanganui District Health Board is urging anyone aged 15 to 30 to get a measles vaccine immediately to stop it from potentially spreading through the community.
The rollout of a nationwide measles immunisation campaign is struggling to reach the numbers required halfway through its year-long mission.
Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter announced the start of the campaign in July 2020, with plans to vaccinate an estimated 500,000 New Zealanders who may not be properly immunised, most of them aged between 15 and 30.
District health boards have struggled to meet that quota, with less than five per cent of those eligible receiving the jab so far.
Health Minister Andrew Little said it was too early to say whether they would fail to hit their target. On Monday, he said the Ministry of Health was trying to reach 230,000 people.
According to the Ministry of Health Population Projection, Whanganui DHB's eligible population is 11,485.
Whanganui DHB had vaccinated 230 people and administered 345 doses of the vaccine as of February 2021.
The estimated projection was not entirely accurate, as some included in this figure might have received the MMR vaccine but were not recorded in the National Immunisation Register (NIR) because it came into use in 2005, a Whanganui DHB spokesman said.
Whanganui DHB chief executive Russell Simpson said the DHB sat quite favourably in terms of measles vaccinations compared to DHBs around the country.
"We safely sit in the top third of DHBs in our catch-up campaign."
Simpson said the campaign was both school and community based.
"The school-based programme has been combined with the planned HPV catch-up, and DHB staff have been to all the secondary schools for the first round of vaccinations," he said. "They will return to the schools as part of their usual programme."
"Toward the end of the campaign they will again go to schools to catch up with anyone who has been missed."
Running pop-ups at the likes of Sound Valley music festival, the Saturday Whanganui River Markets, Born and Raised Pasifika and other community events and organisations, Simpson said they had tried to be as visible as possible to the target population.
"Not only are you protecting yourself against a disease that's even more contagious than Covid-19, you'll also be protecting your whānau, your community and future generations from harm," Simpson said.
He said it had been quite difficult to balance the competing initiatives between the Covid-19 response and measles vaccinations.
"Small DHBs like us have a limited workforce and many vaccinators are also working at our community-based assessment centre and contact tracing systems."
He said in the 2019 measles outbreak more than 2,000 people caught the disease, leading to 83 people dying in Samoa. That was more than triple the number who had died due to Covid-19 in New Zealand.
Measles was highly contagious, eight times more so than Covid-19, Simpson said.
"If there was that many deaths in New Zealand, you would certainly hear about it. I would encourage anyone in that age bracket to get vaccinated immediately."
He said if people were unsure if they were vaccinated against measles, it was not a problem to get immunised again.
"We're making it as readily available and easy as possible for people to get their measles vaccination. So please, be a kaitiaki for your community and a guardian of the future, get protected from measles."
You can get immunised at the following locations:
GP clinics (ask your practice nurse for a free vaccine).
Schools via the free MMR school programme (ask your health nurse).
If you're 16 or older, free immunisation is also available at some pharmacies in Whanganui (visit Unichem, Central City Pharmacy or Countdown Pharmacy).
WRHN Health Clinic, Gate 3 Whanganui Hospital, Tuesdays, 9am–5pm.
Whanganui Accident & Medical clinic (WAM), standard charges apply.
Sexual Health Clinic, Whanganui Hospital Outpatient Department, Mondays and Thursdays, 5pm-6pm.