Measles in Europe


Since the beginning of 2013 there have been large outbreaks of measles in Europe - in Wales there have been over 1,300 cases and over 900 cases have been reported in Germany. Outbreaks are also reported in other European countries including the Netherlands, France, and Italy.

In Ireland there have been over 30 cases of measles since the start of 2013; 10 are confirmed; 17 cases are resident in the HSE East region. The ages of individuals reported with measles in 2013 ranges from 9 months to 35 years of age; most of the reported measles cases are less than 10 years of age.

Vaccination with MMR vaccine is the only way to protect against measles. In Ireland the first MMR dose is given by GPs at 12 months of age, and the second dose at 4-5 years of age is usually given at school by HSE vaccination teams.

The MMR vaccine is free.

What about people travelling to Europe where there are measles outbreaks?

If you are travelling to Europe you should go to your GP now for MMR vaccination if

  • you have a preschool or primary school child who never had MMR vaccine
  • you have a primary school aged child who missed out on the 2nd dose of MMR vaccine
  • you’re not sure whether your child has had the full course of 2 doses

Young adults travelling to Europe where there are measles outbreaks need to be protected and should go to their GP if they haven’t had (or are not sure if they have had) two doses of MMR vaccine.

What about children under 12 months of age?

Many parents and GPs have inquired about administering MMR vaccine to children less than 12 months of age who are travelling to areas where measles outbreaks are occurring in Europe.

There is no change to the recommendations from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) - MMR vaccine is recommended at 12 months and 4-5 years of age.

MMR vaccine can be given to children as young as 6 months of age during outbreak situations (although vaccine effectiveness is usually less at this age than when given after 12 months of age).

Parents who wish to lessen the risk of measles in their children between 6-12 months of age who may be exposed to measles may wish to avail of MMR vaccine. If they do so the vaccine is provided free via the HSE National Cold Chain Service but parents should pay for the vaccine administration.

This dose would not be counted as a valid dose from the point of the vaccination programme and 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.

MMR vaccine may take up to 4 weeks to be effective.