Measles outbreaks are occurring in a number of European countries including Romania, Austria, Germany and Italy. In Romania, over 3,000 cases and 17 deaths have been reported since September 2016.
Cases continue to occur in Ireland. There was a national outbreak in 2016. This involved 40 cases occurring in the South, the South East, the North East, the East and the Midwest. Most cases had not had MMR vaccine.
Measles is a highly infectious virus. The main features are fever, cough, red and painful eyes, and a rash. It can cause severe disease resulting in complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis and occasionally death. Although it is most common in young children, it can affect anyone at any age.
Vaccination with MMR vaccine is the only way to protect against measles
Two doses of MMR vaccine are required to give the best protection. In Ireland, the first dose is given at 12 months by GPs and the second dose is given to Junior Infants in school by HSE vaccination teams or by GPs in Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim.
What should young adults and parents do?
Make sure you or your children are up to date with your MMR vaccines.
Please go to your GP for MMR vaccination if:
- you have not had 2 doses of MMR vaccine
- you have a preschool or primary school child who never had MMR vaccine
- you have a primary school child who missed out on the 2nd dose
- you are not sure if your child has had 2 doses of MMR vaccine
What about children under 12 months of age?
There is no change to the routine recommendations from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC): MMR vaccine is recommended at 12 months and at 4-5 years of age.
However, MMR vaccine is recommended for children aged 6-11 months of age, travelling to other countries or regions where measles outbreaks are reported.
MMR vaccine may take up to 4 weeks to be effective.
The vaccine is available to healthcare professionals to order free of charge through the National Cold Chain Service.
NOTE: If MMR vaccine is given before 12 months of age, this dose is not counted as part of the childhood vaccination programme. MMR vaccine should be repeated at 12 months of age, at least one month after the first vaccine with a further dose at 4 - 5 years of age.
What about children under 6 months of age?
The MMR vaccine is not recommended before the age of 6 months for infants travelling to areas where there is a measles outbreak.
The vaccine is not effective if given before 6 months of age.
All individuals travelling to Europe and other regions experiencing measles outbreaks or where measles cases continue to occur should ensure that they receive the MMR vaccine if needed
What about Health Care Workers?
Health Care Workers (HCWs) born in Ireland since 1978 or born outside of Ireland should have 2 doses of MMR vaccine. Two of the cases in last year’s outbreak in Ireland were HCWs
Further information is available at the links below:
- Health Protection Surveillance Centre
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
This page was updated on 17 May 2017