Parents urged to ensure children are protected against measles prior to Easter travel as cases on rise worldwide
The HSE is urging parents to make sure children are up to date with their MMR vaccines before travelling outside of Ireland during the Easter break. The MMR vaccine protects against measles outbreaks which are being reported around the world.
Already in 2023, measles outbreaks have been reported in a number of countries like United States, South Africa, Nepal and Austria and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently warned about the risk of measles in children as a result of low MMR vaccine 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 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.
In Ireland, the first dose of MMR is offered when children are 12 months of age and is available from GPs. A booster dose is offered by HSE school vaccination teams when children are in Junior Infants. If a child has missed their MMR vaccines it’s not too late to get protected.
Most recent 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 well below the 95% uptake rates recommended by WHO to stop measles transmission and indicate gaps in immunity.
When preparing to travel overseas it’s a good time to check your vaccination records and make sure that your family has had the recommended number of MMR vaccines. Parents should enjoy their time abroad but please don’t get ill with measles or bring it home.