MMR vaccine

OIA response

Response to a request for information about the MMR vaccine.

12 November 2019                

[name and contact details redacted]

Dear [name redacted]


Thank you for your request dated 13 October 2019 under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA).  You asked for:

  • Discussion and decisions around whether more MMR vaccine should be ordered for 2019 due to the 2018 global rates of measles
  • Discussion between the Ministry of Health and Pharmac in March when MMR vaccine ran short about increasing the forecast of usage for the remainder of the year
  • Discussion between the Ministry of Health and Pharmac in September about the MMR vaccine shortage
  • How the number of additional MMR vaccines ordered was calculated.

You later clarified your request on 17 October as wanting to know:

  • how the global measles outbreak in 2018 was factored into the calculation of how much MMR vaccine should be ordered in 2019 and whether the shortage in March sparked a rethink of levels?
  • how the number of 170,000 extra MMR doses recently ordered was arrived at.

PHARMAC’s negotiations with suppliers are generally centred on negotiating an acceptable price, irrespective of volumes. PHARMAC’s supply contracts are flexible and enable us in some cases to suspend sole supply and seek alternative supply from other pharmaceutical companies.

As with all medicines, vaccine supply to New Zealand is vulnerable to international fluctuations in demand. However, it appears that New Zealand experiences fewer out of stocks than other developed countries, which we believe is linked to our supply contracts.

Demand for vaccines since the outbreak has been exceptionally high. In an average month, New Zealand uses around 12,000 doses of the MMR vaccine. The total number distributed this year is over 300,000. The National Store usually holds three months’ worth of stock. However, since the Canterbury outbreak last year, we have changed that level to the equivalent of eight months.

In addition, the contracted supplier GSK has both brought forward deliveries planned for later this year and next year, and made greater volumes available to New Zealand.

The 170,000 doses recently delivered is made up of additional global stock that was able to be accessed, and bringing forward orders already placed. Further orders are being placed for future delivery that mean New Zealand will see increased stock levels and deliveries through 2020. As there are global constraints on the supply of MMR vaccine, the actual quantities ordered were determined by estimates of how many people might need to be vaccinated to manage the outbreak, in conjunction with how many doses the vaccine manufacturers were actually able to allocate to New Zealand from their global supplies.

We trust that this information answers your queries.  

Yours sincerely

Alison Hill
Director, Engagement and Implementation