The HSE is urging parents to make sure children are up to date with their MMR vaccines before travelling outside of Ireland this summer. The MMR vaccine, which is safe and effective, protects against measles cases and outbreaks.
Measles cases are rising internationally. There have been more cases reported in Europe so far this year than were reported in the whole of 2022. There is an ongoing measles outbreak in Austria and measles cases have been reported in the UK, Germany, Hungary and Sweden. Outside Europe, there have been recent outbreaks reported in many countries including South Africa, Indonesia, India and the Philippines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) have warned about the risk of measles in children because of low MMR vaccine uptake following the pandemic.
Measles is highly infectious and can be an acute and serious infection. It causes a rash illness, with cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and high fever. Complications of measles include ear infections, pneumonia, febrile seizures and less commonly encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and even death.
The only protection against measles is vaccination. Two doses of MMR vaccine are needed and if a child is not fully protected for their age, then MMR vaccines can be obtained from your GP or travel health clinic.
Measles is a notifiable disease in Ireland. In recent years, most cases of measles reported in Ireland are imported or import related cases. Measles is more common in countries where uptake of measles vaccine is below recommended levels.
A booster dose is offered by GP’s in Donegal when children are 4 years of age. If a child has missed their MMR vaccines it’s not too late to get protected.
Uptake rates of MMR vaccine in Ireland are currently below the rates recommended by WHO. Most recently available information on the uptake of the second dose of MMR in Ireland for children in the 2020/2021 school year was 88%. This is down from 91% reported for the 2019/2020 school year. Both of these uptake rates are below the WHO recommended 95% uptake rates to stop measles transmission and indicates gaps in immunity.
There is further information relating to measles and all other vaccine preventable diseases on www.immunisation.ie for parents and all healthcare professionals.