Source: Ministry of Health, 6 October 2017
New Zealand has won international praise for successfully
eliminating endemic measles and rubella for the first time.
Ministry of Health's Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline
McElnay, says it means no measles or rubella cases have originated
here for the past three years, but people who have caught the
diseases overseas regularly bring them in on their arrival
"We are very pleased to gain verification and congratulations
from the World Health Organization that we have eliminated these
two dangerous childhood diseases. I'd like to thank our
hard-working health professionals and families and caregivers for
this great result," she says.
"However, we must remain vigilant and improve our vaccination
rates because these diseases can easily spread among unimmunised
people from imported cases.
In New Zealand, people aged 12 to 32 years have lower
vaccination rates than young children so are less likely to be
protected against these diseases. That's why teens and young adults
have been most affected in the recent mumps outbreaks."
Dr McElnay will announce the WHO verification at a Ministry-run
Measles and Rubella Elimination Symposium in Wellington today,
where experts from Australia and New Zealand will meet to discuss
how to lift vaccination rates among teenagers and young adults.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, all
which can be serious in young adults. Before 2005, immunisation
rates were not nationally recorded and parents might not have
received reminders that their children were due for
Everyone born from 1 January 1969 needs to have two doses of MMR
vaccine to be fully protected. Those born before then were likely
to have been exposed to the disease so should be immune, Dr McElnay
"Diseases like measles and most recently mumps can spread
quickly in schools and tertiary education facilities. Rubella
immunity is particularly important for young women thinking about
starting a family because the disease can cause abnormalities for
"Because measles is so contagious, 95 percent of people need to
be fully vaccinated against the disease to prevent sustained
outbreaks. About 90 percent of young children have received both
doses of MMR by age five in New Zealand, but only about 80 percent
of teenagers and young adults have had both doses, which leaves
them at risk.
"Catching up on MMR vaccination is easy and free, whatever your
age. If you can't find your records and aren't sure whether you're
protected, it's better to get vaccinated."
WHO will officially announce New Zealand's elimination of the
potentially fatal childhood diseases at its Regional Committee for
the Western Pacific's annual meeting, which starts on Monday in