The escalating outbreak of meningococcal W ST-11 in Northland is deeply worrying. This strain has been described by the Northland District Health Board as “very scary” and whilst the fact that it is present at all is scary enough, the fact it is rapidly escalating is adding to the concern.
Nationwide, we started in January with four cases, that went up to 10 during February, 29 in April and 39 in May. That is serious stuff.
I feel for the families affected. I have met some of them and what is heartbreaking is that most have the same set of questions — for which, I admit, I am unable to come up with any credible answers; the questions are why? Moreover, could it have been prevented?
I imagine the district health board is asking the same questions — this is a quote from their chief executive Nick Chamberlain: “We have been strongly encouraging the Ministry of Health for some months to approve this campaign as it’s the only truly preventative measure for our population.”
For some months?
The board has been issuing warnings about the outbreak and its effect since at least May, and you would have thought that given the seriousness the government would have been stirred into action.
Their reaction has been more sluggish than stirring.
Only now — months later — have they authorised any meaningful action. This delay is totally unacceptable — I told them that in the house last week. I told them that we are talking about our children.
Now we are told that there is not enough vaccine to go around. There is a worldwide shortage, and we ordered our vaccine only two weeks ago, give or take. That means that when it arrives, it will be used selectively — not every kid, not every school.
For me, as a parent, that is a bitter pill to take, and it could so easily have been prevented.