Rush on measles vaccine

Gina Kinnaird and her daughter Charlii-Maree (left) and baby son Carlos are among those asked to stay isolated at home to help prevent the spread of measles in Dunedin. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Gina Kinnaird and her daughter Charlii-Maree (left) and baby son Carlos are among those asked to stay isolated at home to help prevent the spread of measles in Dunedin. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Dunedin medical centres are being inundated by phone calls as people rush to check, or boost, their immunisation against measles.

Medical centres contacted yesterday reported being flooded with patients wanting to check their records or make bookings to receive MMR shots or boosters.

The rush comes after two cases of measles were confirmed in Dunedin, following 28 cases of the highly contagious - and possibly life-threatening - illness reported in Canterbury.

SDHB medical officer of health Marion Poore yesterday confirmed no more cases of measles had been reported in Dunedin yesterday.

Despite that, Dunedin South Medical Centre practice manager Anna Barham said staff at her clinic had been ''absolutely flat out'' fielding inquiries yesterday.

''The phones are ringing off the hook.''

The centre was now almost fully booked until mid-next week, but vaccinations remained in stock - at least for now - in the South, she said.

''We have been prioritising, making sure the kids are getting theirs done first.''

The Canterbury outbreak also sent a scare through Port Chalmers yesterday, after it emerged one of Dunedin's two confirmed cases - a visitor from Christchurch - had visited the Port Chalmers kindergarten to collect a child last week.

As a result, Public Health South officials on Wednesday contacted parents of children at the kindergarten who were yet to receive their full immunisation, advising them to isolate themselves indoors until March 21.

The advice was reversed late yesterday, after PHS officials concluded those with at least one MMR shot were probably ''95%'' safe, one affected parent said.

Dr Poore said the advice to isolate Port Chalmers kindergarten children had initially affected about 20 children.

However, the Ministry of Health advised later yesterday that children aged between 12 months and 4 years old, who had already received one dose of MMR after their first birthday, were ''highly likely to be protected''.

''We are therefore currently contacting these families to advise they no longer need to be isolated and can return to kindy if they wish,'' she said.

Port Chalmers Kindergarten staff referred the Otago Daily Times to Christine Kerr, general manager of the umbrella organisation Dunedin Kindergartens.

Mrs Kerr said the organisation - and parents - were heeding the advice of officials.

Among those told to stay home yesterday, only to be given the all-clear later, was Port Chalmers woman Gina Kinnaird (22).

Her 3-year-old daughter, Charlii-Maree, attends Port Chalmers Kindergarten, and Ms Kinnaird also has a 3-month-old baby boy, Carlos.

The children's ages meant neither was fully immunised against measles last week, when the infected person visited, meaning both her children had possibly been at risk from the disease.

The update from PHS late yesterday was good news, but ''the whole thing is quite scary really'', she said.

It was also a good argument for ensuring children were vaccinated, she said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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