Community pharmacists to deliver MMR vaccinations

Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter says trained pharmacist vaccinators in approximately 450 pharmacies across New Zealand will soon be able to deliver MMR vaccinations to people aged 16 and over, as the latest step in the Government’s plan to stop the measles outbreak and improve the immunity of New Zealanders.

“The Ministry of Health, PHARMAC and District Health Boards have been actively working to make sure New Zealand’s 840 trained pharmacist vaccinators are able to help immunise their communities against measles,” says Julie Anne Genter.

“This is really important – the current measles outbreak has shown it’s vital we have pharmacists and DHBs working together on a joined up approach to immunisation. We’re seeing some encouraging progress around new case numbers, but the work of pharmacist vaccinators is an added tool in the fight.

“In South Auckland for example, there are around 30 pharmacies in Counties Manukau that could vaccinate and be called on. And pharmacist vaccinators played an important role in responding to the Northland meningococcal outbreak, providing more than 700 vaccines in that region so we know this is a system that works.

“What today’s news means is that people wanting an MMR vaccination should be able to visit a trained pharmacist vaccinator as soon as contracts with DHBs are agreed on.

“Once they’re contracted, pharmacists can vaccinate people over the age of 16. That age marker is so there’s no disruption to the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, which will continue to be delivered by GPs.

"It also fits with advice from the Expert Advisory Group which recommended new ways to deliver vaccines to reach mid-teens to 29 year olds who mightn’t routinely engage with general practice.

“Enabling pharmacist vaccinators increases the number of frontline places people can get vaccinated. Pharmacies are convenient, locally trusted locations for many people and will help get more people protected from measles.

"One vaccination protects 95 percent of people, two vaccinations protects 99 percent of people. By making it easy for those over 16 to get vaccinated we will improve this group’s immunity to measles.

“This is a significant development in the fight against measles. To enable it, we’ve had to work through some important logistics which included adding MMR on the Pharmaceutical schedule, so pharmacists can be paid for delivering it.

“A Ministerial Notification was also required under section 106 of the Medicines Act, for MMR to be given without a doctor’s prescription.

“Immunisation is the best protection against measles, and I want to thank pharmacists for their willingness to help improve New Zealand’s immunisation rates.”

The MMR vaccine is free in New Zealand if you were born in 1969 or later. People older than this are considered likely to be immune as they may have been exposed to measles when younger.

The pharmacist vaccinators’ programme will be reviewed by the Ministry of Health after a year.

Actions taken by the Government to halt the current outbreak and improve immunity include:

  • Pharmacist vaccinators able to deliver MMR vaccinations to people aged 16 and over
  • Babies aged from six months who live in Auckland can now receive a free vaccine
  • Nationwide all children under 15 who have not had a single dose of MMR can be vaccinated
  • Over 300,000 vaccines have been distributed in 2019 compared to 150,000 for all of 2018, a more than 100 percent increase.
  • 155,000 MMR vaccines will arrive within the next three months (85,000 in November and 70,000 by early January)