Reti criticises govt's Northland vaccination campaign

By Tema Hemi

An expert on Northland's health issues says that his region should have been a priority for vaccine distribution.  Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti says the prime minister, Ministry of Health and Pharmac need to front up with Northlanders about when they knew that more vaccines were available and why they weren't purchased.

The issue has been highlighted by the death of a 7-month-old who passed away after contracting meningitis this year.

National's Associate Health Spokesperson, Reti was shocked at the death.

Reti says, "We don't know if the extra Pfizer vaccines would have protected that 7-month-old but what we do know is at least she deserved a chance."

Dr Lance O'Sullivan says Northland people deserve better.

"If in a situation when we have a shortage of vaccinations whether it be for flu, influenza, whether it be for measles, it should always go to areas of priority and I don't think it always has.  Look and you would say that Northland would be a very high priority area."

Minister of Health David Clark has rejected Reti's criticisms. 

"Look Mr Reti is throwing accusations around willy-nilly without any evidence, that's not the kind of politics that I support."

The Northland vaccine campaign excluded 5-12 year olds so that vaccines could reach the targeted teenagers that were spreading the disease.     

"I have searched back records and can find no record of being made aware of any other vaccines being available," Clark says. 

Reti still believes the government has to front to Northlanders.

"I think he needs to explain himself. There's a number of Māori inequity issues that need addressing and I think the whole campaign needs serious looking at."

O'Sullivan says health issues are made difficult in the Northland area because of socio-economic status and allocating scarce resources poorly worsens the situation. 

He remains steadfast in his opinion that vaccinations are vital.

"We know that vaccinations can prevent a large number of conditions, not everything.  It's like wearing a seat belt, vaccinations will increase the risk of surviving," he says.