Move over Lorde and the All Blacks, New Zealand has another great success story Kiwis can be proud of.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just verified that New Zealand has successfully eliminated endemic measles and rubella for the first time.

This means no measles or rubella cases have originated here for the past three years, the Ministry of Health’s director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay said.

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, all which can be serious in young adults. Measles is extremely contagious and more than 95 per cent of people need to be fully vaccinated to prevent sustained outbreaks, McElnay said.

“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.

“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.”

Professor of public health at the University of Otago Michael Baker said it was the culmination of decades of work to achieve high coverage of vaccinations.

“It’s just a great success story for New Zealand… In the end it means a high level of safety and protection for our children.”

Baker explained that the term “elimination” did not mean that no one would ever get a case of the measles, but that there had been no occurrences of a transmission of measles lasting more than 12 months in the last three years and no case of congenital rubella in 20 years.

“It essentially fizzles out. That means you don’t get a sustained epidemic.”


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