Spread Of NZ Measles Outbreak, Worry World Health Organisation 

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  • Vaccine for immunisation against measles
    Vaccine for immunisation against measles

Samoa with her close ties to New Zealand is on the frontline islands the World Health Organisation is "worried" about, at the potential for New Zealand's measles outbreak to be exported to Pacific countries.

The most recent count on the total number of measles cases in Auckland alone stood at 944, according to media reports from New Zealand.

Nationally, the figure has passed 1100, with officials saying it's expected to rise further before peaking in the next fortnight.

Currently, while no measles cases have been confirmed in the Pacific, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are fears this could change despite recent significant efforts to reach the 95 per cent immunisation target.

WHO’s New Zealand team coordinator for the Pacific Health Security and Communicable Diseases unit, Dr Angela Merianos, said the organisation is concerned about Pacific countries and territories' ability to manage measles.

"We have been working with Pacific Island countries and territories since the beginning of the year to actually make sure that all of them are prepared to manage imported cases of measles," she told TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning.

The objective, she said, is "not preventing any cases from arriving in the country – we know that's very, very difficult to do – but rather, should there be an imported case, that they identify it early."

Early identification will allow healthcare professionals to investigate the case, trace close contacts, ensure hospital infection prevention and control to stop its spread in healthcare facilities, and carry out post-exposure vaccines for close contacts, Ms. Merianos said.

She said the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and national health authorities are "all working together with the Pacific Island health authorities to make sure that we get ahead of those immunisation gaps and to ensure we’re achieving those very high coverage rates."

Ms. Merianos called the situation in Auckland "a very difficult situation", adding that New Zealand is "consistently one of the leading international citizens when it comes to public health."

"The messaging that's gone out from New Zealand – the alerts to other countries to make sure that they're aware of the outbreak and to protect themselves from that solution – is a critical part of good public health practice internationally."

She said despite many countries having high immunisation coverage rates, there "may be pockets of under vaccinated populations, and they can cause local outbreaks."

"New Zealand also has to manage vaccine hesitancy as a result of some misinformation and concerns that are generated through misinformation that's been propagated about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

"It's really important that there's ongoing dialogue and community engagement, that parents and the broader community know about the real benefits and risks of immunisation, and making sure that people have the most up to date and reliable and accurate scientific information about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

"Immunisation's one of the safest and most effective public health measures, next to water and sanitation."