Be prepared – measles immunisation drive in Southern

Friday 06 October 2023

WellSouth, the Primary Health Organisation for Otago and Southland, is today asking the Southern community to be prepared against a measles outbreak and get immunised.


They are asking people across Otago and Southland who are not immunised against measles to contact their general practice or visit their local pharmacy to arrange a vaccination.


The PHO is vigilant after a person in the North Island with measles travelled and attended group events with people from other regions.


WellSouth Primary Health Network CEO Andrew Swanson-Dobbs says, “Even without a confirmed case here in Otago and Southland, we need to be prepared, especially when we consider how much more travel there has been with the recent school holidays.”


“Measles is highly contagious and can make adults and children very very sick,” says Dr Carol Atmore, WellSouth’s Clinical Director.


“Measles is much more contagious than Covid-19, and much easier to catch. If you are 54 years old or younger, it’s important that you find out if you have had your two vaccination shots to protect you against measles. Dig out your old Plunket book or WellChild Tamariki Ora book if you aren’t sure, ask your parents, or ask your general practice or local pharmacy to check. If you are not sure, we recommend you have a measles vaccination now. If you are 54 or older, measles was widespread in the community back then, and you are considered immune. But check that your younger whānau are immunised.


“In the last measles outbreak in New Zealand 4 years ago, one in three people who caught measles were so unwell they needed to be in hospital. So, protect yourselves and your families. We all need to do our bit to keep our whole community safe.”


The measles vaccination comes from a combined measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine. It is FREE for everyone under 18 years old, it does not matter what your visa or citizenship status is. It is also free for those everyone over 18 who are eligible for free health care in New Zealand.


Your general practice team at the doctor you are enrolled at, and most pharmacies are able to check immunisation records and eligibility for a free dose. Many community pharmacies can also give you the MMR on the spot.


Community Healthcare Providers often hold immunisation clinics.


The MMR vaccine is given as part of the National Immunisation Schedule at ages 12 and 15 months.


”It’s also a great time to check that your children are up to date with all their immunisations,” Dr Atmore says.




Here are some statistics from Te Whatu Ora’s immunisation website Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine | Immunise | Te Whatu Ora.

  • Of all diseases, measles is one of the most dangerous and contagious. It’s so infectious that, if you’re not vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has measles, you’re very likely to catch it and pass it on to others.

  • Measles spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can cause a rash, ear infection, diarrhoea, and seizures caused by fever.

  • In 1 in every 1,000 cases, it causes inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Some people who develop encephalitis die, while 1 in 3 are left with permanent brain damage.

  • Measles can also lead to pneumonia, which is the main cause of death from measles.

  • If you get measles while you’re pregnant it can make you very sick and can harm your baby.

  • Measles is now the third most common vaccine-preventable cause of death among children throughout the world.

  • During New Zealand’s last measles outbreak in 2019, 40% of children who caught measles were admitted to hospital.


Other information can be found here Southern Measles Campaign » WellSouth including a fact sheet.

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