The Ministry of Health has amended laws barring non-residents from accessing vaccinations in a bid to curb the spread of measles among workers, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said on Friday. It comes as the death toll from a measles epidemic in Samoa - currently at 79 - continues to rise.
The changes will mostly affect Samoans in or travelling to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which enables around 13,000 Pacific workers to visit New Zealand each year on temporary work permits.
"Vaccination will prevent RSE workers from taking this potentially fatal illness back to their home countries, as well as reducing the risk of further spread of measles within New Zealand," INZ said in a statement.
One Samoan worker in Hawke's Bay had contracted measles but was isolated and later recovered, according to the co-ordinator of RSE, Jerf Van Beek.
Van Beek also reported that Samoan RSE workers were having difficulty getting necessary medical documents to travel to New Zealand, because Samoa's health system was strained by the measles epidemic. INZ said this had been resolved.
"Medical screening should be back to normal operations and that RSE visa applicants can undergo required chest x-rays."
The chair of the New Zealand Samoa Trade and Investment Commission, Tuala Tagaloa Tusani, said the moves were positive for Samoan RSE workers but that many were suffering mental fatigue from the epidemic.
"There's a lot of seasonal workers with children who are currently ill [with measles]," he said.
He said that would make it very tough for them to work in New Zealand.