Editorial: Smart parents protect us from measles

Saturday August 31, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion

Cook Islanders spend a lot of time and money flying to New Zealand for healthcare.


But there is a health lesson Kiwis could learn by flying over here: the importance of immunisation.

Not that we’d let them in right now – they might be infected with measles.

Measles can kill, or disable for life. Seven people died in a New Zealand outbreak in the 1990s, an outbreak that also hit the Cooks.

As of last night, 778 people in Auckland were confirmed infected in this month’s measles outbreak – and half of them are in hospital, putting enormous strain on the city’s health infrastructure. Many of the sick are Samoan, Tongan or Cook Islanders.

Over the past 10 years, Cook Islands parents have responded to the threat of measles and similar infectious diseases by ensuring they give their 1-year-olds the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) jab. That’s why the measles outbreak has not yet gained a foothold here.

New Zealanders have responded to the same measles threat with bluster and misinformation. Only 84 per cent of 18-month-old children there are fully immunised – nothing short of reckless endangerment, in a developed country that could easily immunise all its vulnerable children.

Now, they’re paying a grim price.

The worst thing is, measles is almost entirely preventable. If every child received their MMR jab, the disease would be eradicated but for the odd case coming in from overseas.

In New Zealand, blinkered chattering class parents, educated enough to know better, make a deliberate choice against immunisation. They rely on discredited information, like a fraudulent Lancet medical study that falsely linked the MMR vaccine to colitis and autism.

Or they selfishly choose to avoid the infinitesimally small risk posed by vaccine's side effects, relying on the mass immunity provided by other families who do get the jab.

It seems so simple: if we give ourselves and our children the jab, they are protected; our communities are protected.

Over the past 10 years, Cooks authorities and parents have taken that responsible and caring approach.

-          Jonathan Milne

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