New Zealand doubles spending on measles vaccines

The New Zealand Ministry of Health recently reported spending almost double the normal amount on purchases of the measles vaccine this year.

Public Health Director Mark Jacobs recently announced that $1.7 million have been spent on the MMR vaccine in 2011, compared to $930,000 last year, according to

New Zealand is currently facing the worst outbreak of the measles it has seen since 1997. There have been nearly 600 cases of the measles in the country this year, with 90 people facing hospitalization.

The city of Auckland and the surrounding region have seen 80 percent of the total number of measles cases during the outbreak.

The ministry is urging anyone not fully immunized to see a doctor immediately.

Unlike the 1997 outbreak, a higher proportion of adults have contracted the illness. Nonetheless, the outbreak has pushed toddler immunization rates to a record 91 percent, according to

The Ministry of Health said that an increasing number of parents who originally opted out of vaccination programs have since signed up their children. Many parents who originally declined the MMR vaccine after being told research had linked it to the development of autism have also reconsidered their decision.

David Wansbrough, the ministry's national program manager for immunization, said that the number of parents opting out has dropped from six percent three years ago to less than four percent this year.

"Unfortunately, we are still getting outbreaks of these preventable diseases and that has reminded people how serious these diseases can be," Wansbrough said, reports.