About Measles in New Zealand
While there is a safe and effective vaccine for measles, New Zealand continues to experience outbreaks of this infectious disease that can have serious health effects. In 2019 there were more than 2,000 cases of measles in New Zealand, 41% of these cases were Pacific Peoples and 24% Maori. Now, in 2023, measles has again been detected in Aotearoa.
The Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine will be offered FREE to anyone born after 1969 who has not yet been fully immunised against measles. Those born before 1969 will have natural immunity.
Most young people will have been given at least one dose of MMR in early childhood. However, full immunisations comes from two doses. This mean some are not fully protected as many have missed their second dose.
People who have come from overseas, including the Pacific Islands, may have had different vaccines that may not fully protect them against measles, mumps and rubella.
If you are not sure or you cannot find your childhood vaccination records and your GP does not have a copy of them, then the Ministry of Health recommends you have the FREE MMR vaccine now. There are no additional safety concerns with having an extra dose. However, women who are pregnant cannot have the MMR vaccine.
In Southern, our General Practices are the primary way we can achieve our vaccination goals over the next year. People can get their FREE catch-up vaccinations now from General Practices and participating pharmacies across the Southern district. You can find a place to book an MMR vaccine here.
While you are checking on your MMR vaccination status, please also take the opportunity to check you are fully vaccinated for all diseases on the New Zealand Vaccination Schedule.
To find out more about measles and the MMR vaccination, visit the Te Whatu Ora website.
Where can people get vaccinated?
You can get your free Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine at your General Practice, Māori or Pacifica provider and at many pharmacies.
Some pharmacies are unable to provide vaccinations to people under the age of 3 years, if this is the case in your area you will need to go to your primary care health provider for the free vaccine. Call your local pharmacy to check if they provide MMR vaccines. Or, to find your local pharmacy that provides this service, visit www.healthpoint.co.nz and type ‘MMR vaccine’ into the search box. Many pharmacies will allow walk-ins but it’s a good idea to call ahead to check.
You’ll need a total of 2 doses to be fully protected and they need to be at least a month apart.
Where are possible exposure sites?
There are several public exposure events in Auckland, Waikato and Tauranga between Sunday 5 February and Thursday 9 February. These include a festival in the Waikato; bus transport to and from Tauranga and Waikato, cafes and a hotel in Tauranga; a pharmacy and supermarket in Auckland’s CBD.
Details of these sites available at http://www.health.govt.nz/measlesexposure
What should people do if they’ve been at a location of interest?
We ask anyone present at these exposure events to stay alert to symptoms of measles and to check if they are immune. Please follow the advice on the exposure events website: http://www.health.govt.nz/measlesexposure
If a person is not immune to measles, or not sure, then they should watch out for measles symptoms and call their primary care health provider or Healthline on 0800 611 116 if they occur. It is also recommended that people who are unsure of their immunity get vaccinated against measles.
A dedicated Disability Helpline is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to support disabled people. For measles or general enquiries call free on 0800 11 12 13 or text 8988 for help and information.
MMR is given as two doses. If you were born on or after 1 January 1969 and are not sure that you’ve had two doses, play it safe and get vaccinated. There are no safety concerns with having an extra dose.
How infectious is measles?
Measles is a very serious illness that can spread easily amongst those that are not immune. It is much more contagious than COVID-19, particularly amongst people who aren’t immune.
The best protection against measles is to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. It is safe to have an extra MMR vaccination if you can’t prove you have had two doses.
The MMR vaccine is free. If you or anyone in your whānau born on or after 1 January 1969 has not had an MMR vaccine, or aren't sure, ask your General Practice, Māori or Pacifica provider, parent or caregiver. If you can’t confirm two doses were given, play it safe and get vaccinated. There are no safety concerns with having an extra dose.
What are the symptoms of measles?
Symptoms can include a fever, cough, runny nose and sore and watery ‘pink’ eyes. These are followed by a blotchy rash. If you catch measles you are infectious from four days before and until four days after the rash appears.
What should people do if they experience symptoms?
If you have symptoms you should and call your General Practice, Māori or Pacifica provider or Healthline on 0800 611 116. If you need to visit your primary care health provider or an after-hours clinic phone ahead first to limit the risk of the virus being spread to other people. Because measles is so infectious, it’s important that those that have been diagnosed with measles isolate (i.e. staying at home unless seeking healthcare). People who have measles will need to isolate until four days after the rash first appears.
What does this case mean for New Zealand?
There has not been sustained transmission of measles for longer than a year in New Zealand since 2014. However, measles is often imported into New Zealand following international travel.