We all need to make sure we are protected against measles before travelling to Europe and elsewhere as complacency in getting MMR vaccine could cause deaths in Ireland due to large measles outbreaks in Europe.
Measles cases in Europe primarily occur in groups of people who are not vaccinated and include cases in both adults and children. Large outbreaks with deaths are ongoing in countries e.g. Italy that had previously eliminated or interrupted transmission of measles by vaccination
Measles is a serious illness and can cause death and other serious complications including infections of the lungs and brain, says head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Lucy Jessop.
In June, 24 countries reported cases of measles however the, case numbers continued to fall compared with the previous two months. France, Bulgaria, Italy and Poland had the highest number of cases.
Data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in August 2019 shows there have been nearly 90,000 cases and 37 deaths reported across 48 of the 53 countries in the WHO European region in the first six months of 2019. There were 84,462 cases in the region in the whole of 2018, with 44,175 by the end of June that year. In 2016 there were only 5,273 cases.
The following advice was issued for travellers to New Zealand by the New Zealand Ministry of Health ( updated 6th Nov 2019)
“People intending to travel to New Zealand should be fully immunised for measles. If you need additional vaccination, it should be administered at least two weeks before arriving in New Zealand”.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee an expert group of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland makes recommendation on vaccination policy in Ireland.
NIAC made recommendations on MMR for children travelling to regions like Europe where there are ongoing measles outbreaks to protect young children from measles.
See the recommendations below
- Infants 6 months to ≤11 months of age should receive one dose of MMR vaccine.
A dose given ≤11 months of age does not replace the dose recommended at 12 months of age.
If a dose is given before 12 months of age, two further doses should be given ≥ 12 months of age (at least 28 days after the first dose) and 4 to 5 years of age.
- Children 12 months of age and older
a) If unvaccinated should receive two doses of MMR vaccine separated by ≥28 days.
To ensure protection, the second dose should be given ≥2 weeks prior to travel.
b) If received one dose of MMR vaccine should receive a second dose ≥28 days later and ideally ≥2 weeks prior to travel.
The Department of Public Health introduced payment for vaccine administration when MMR vaccine is given to a child before 12 months of age.
The NIAC recommendation remains in place.
“Vaccines save lives and protect against serious illness”.
Due to good vaccine uptake, we have thankfully not seen outbreaks of other infectious diseases in Ireland that we witnessed in the past but we must not let complacency creep in. We must remember vaccines are a simple, effective and safe way to save lives and prevent serious illness”,
said Dr Jessop.