Can Pharmacists End New Zealand’s Measles Outbreak?

New Zealand Ministry of Health advises travelers to be immunized against measles before international departure
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The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand issued a statement agreeing with Dr. Nikki Turner, New Zealand’s Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, who recently said ‘a measles outbreak should not be happening.’

As of August 28, 2019, New Zealand’s measles outbreak appears to be accelerating, with 160 new measles cases confirmed by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) during the past week.

These additional measles cases increase New Zealand’s to 700 during 2019. 

Furthermore, there are risks international travelers may further spread this contagious virus to under-vaccinated ‘Kiwis.’

Dr. Maria Poynter with ARPHS said in an August 23rd statement, ‘an Auckland resident was infectious with measles on flight NZ001 landing in New Zealand on August 17, 2019, at 5.30 a.m.’

"Unfortunately people are infectious for 5 days before the rash appears, and continue to be contagious for the following 5 days," Dr. Poynter said.

Richard Townley, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Society, said, ‘New Zealand needs a national approach, and believes accredited pharmacist vaccinators are part of the solution.’

“Your local pharmacy is already able to provide vaccinations for influenza, shingles, Tdap, and meningitis, but not for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR).”

“It is now urgent that the Ministry of Health amend the policies and regulations governing who can provide MMR vaccinations to include accredited pharmacist vaccinators, and for PHARMAC to fund the delivery of this service.”

“We are offering the Ministry a solution to directly address current inequities in healthcare,” explained Mr. Townley.

“We know that childhood immunization rates are falling and that regional outbreaks are occurring. Accredited pharmacist vaccinators can be part of the solution.”

In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a worldwide Travel Alert in June 2019 regarding measles outbreaks. The CDC offers this advice to international travelers:

  • Before your trip, check your destination for health risks.
  • Consult with a travel medicine provider at least 1 month before your trip to allow time to receive vaccinations, medicines, and advice that you may need.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on all of your routine vaccines, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).

And, the CDC updated its measles vaccination recommendations for international travelers on May 13, 2019, which are as follows:

  • Infants (6 through 11 months old): 1 dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before travel. This dose does not count as the first dose in the routine childhood vaccination series.
  • People 12 months old or older, with no evidence of immunity or no written documentation of any doses: 2 doses of MMR vaccine before travel. The 2 doses must be given 28 days apart.
  • People 12 months old or older, who have written documentation of 1 dose and no other evidence of immunity: 1 additional dose before travel, at least 28 days after the previous dose.

To schedule a pre-trip vaccine counseling session with a local pharmacy, please visit Vax-Before-Travel. 

Most pharmacies in the USA offer measles vaccines, such as MMR-II and ProQuad. Financial support programs for these measles vaccines can be found at Vaccine Discounts.   

>>  Check Your Measles Immunity Today  <<

"The worldwide measles outbreaks are not just a concern in other countries. With football season just around the corner, large gatherings of people make the chances of spreading the measles virus much greater," explained Crockett Tidwell, RPh, CDE, Clinical Services Manager, Vaccine Specialist with United Supermarkets Pharmacy. 

"Make sure you are fully vaccinated to stay safe when traveling," continued Tidwell.

As a general notice, the CDC says ‘any vaccine can cause a side effect, which should be reported to a healthcare provider, or to the CDC.’

For more information about New Zealand, please contact: Richard Townley, Chief Executive Officer, Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand Inc., Phone: 04 802 0037, Email: [email protected] 

Published by Vax Before Travel

Article by
Dani Reiter