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Pacific Islanders under RSE scheme now eligible for MMR vaccine
9:50 pm GMT+12, 26/01/2020, New Zealand

More than 70 RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers have been vaccinated for measles before heading home, through Blenheim's Urgent Care Centre.

The Ministry of Health in December last year made changes to give all temporary migrant workers from the Pacific free access to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine while in New Zealand.

Urgent Care Centre manager Sue Allen said 25 Samoan RSE workers were vaccinated late last year prior to returning home for Christmas. A further 42 were vaccinated last Tuesday. 

In December last year Marlborough employers were seeking vaccinations for RSE workers, as many faced returning home un-immunised to the deadly epidemic in Samoa.

Allen said it was "absolutely brilliant" that the workers were able to access the free MMR vaccine. The clinics were run after work and the workers' employers were able to bring them in by the van-load.

A further 40 to 45 workers, heading back to Niue, would come through the clinic next Tuesday, she said.

“Once we've completed next week's clinic we'll approach Public Health and go back through them, and perhaps Hortus wants to bring their group through."

All workers would also be provided with documentation when returning home, so they could get the second immunisation when they arrived, which would give them full cover.

While the Ministry of Health headed the response, the vaccinations were funded by Immigration NZ, and Vinepower chief executive Gus Struthers said employers paid administration costs, about $30 a head.

Marlborough Primary Health Organisation chief executive Beth Tester said they had lobbied the Ministry of Health for vaccine access for RSE workers for a long time.

She said ideally the vaccinations would occur prior to a worker's arrival in New Zealand, but this was difficult to guarantee, and so vaccine access in New Zealand was "fabulous news".

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said they did not hold records of the RSE workers who had been vaccinated, but district health boards would be collecting these figures and reporting to the ministry by the end of March 2020. 

The current national priorities for MMR vaccination were to maintain the Childhood Immunisation Schedule, immunise susceptible close contacts within 72 hours, un-vaccinated children under 15 and babies aged 6 to 11 months travelling to areas with an outbreak.

Marlborough had remained relatively free of measles, although a tourist confirmed to have measles travelled through Picton earlier this month, and a well-contained case was recorded in October last year.

SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS


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