Experts issue vaccine reminder in light of recent measles outbreaks

Morgan Liotta

4/10/2019 1:42:20 PM

A recent surge in measles outbreaks has prompted reminders urging people planning to travel to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.

Young girl getting injection
Young children are among those most at risk.

Australia has recorded 172 notifications of measles so far this year, compared to 103 cases for the whole of 2018.
Three capital cities across Australia have confirmed cases in the past month, which have been linked to hundreds of cases confirmed in New Zealand.
For people travelling overseas, measles is currently considered a risk in some countries and the Department of Health (DoH) has reminded people of the importance of vaccination in reducing risk against contracting the highly infectious disease by updating its measles information page for travellers.
In conjunction with the Australian Academy of Science, the DoH has also released a number of new initiatives, including educational and promotional materials, to inform consumers and health professionals about the disease.
Up-to-date information for people heading overseas is also available. Most measles cases in Australia occur when people who are unvaccinated travel overseas to places where measles is spreading and bring it back, often before they are aware they are a carrier, according to the Australian Academy of Science and the DoH.

Measles outbreaks have also occurred in destinations that many Australians might consider ‘low-risk’, including New Zealand, parts of Europe and the US, as well as developing countries where vaccines are less widely available, such as parts of Africa and Asia.

‘It’s not just unvaccinated [people] who pose a risk to public health – many people in Australia may be under-vaccinated without realising it,’ Academy Fellow Professor Ian Frazer of the University of Queensland said.
‘It takes just one person to come into the country with measles, and [with] less than 95% of the community immunised the virus can spread.’
Professor Frazer emphasised that it is ‘crucial’ others in the community are fully immunised to prevent the spread of disease to those most at risk, including young children, migrants who didn’t receive vaccines in childhood, pregnant women and older people.
Australia’s current immunisation coverage for the measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for two-year-olds is 93.5%, and 94.85% of five-year-olds are fully immunised in line with the National Immunisation Program Schedule.
The national coverage target to provide enough herd immunity to stop the spread of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases is 95%. 
The DoH confirmed that most people in Australia have had two doses of the MMR vaccine, and most born in 1965 or earlier have immunity from having had the disease. However, at least 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated for there to be enough immunity across the population to stop spread and help protect those who cannot be vaccinated.
‘Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide lifelong protection,’ Professor Frazer said.
‘Check your vaccination records and if in doubt about whether you’ve had two doses, speak with your GP.
‘It is safe to have another MMR vaccine if you don’t have evidence of a second dose. This ensures you’ve got the best possible protection.’
The DoH echoed this message for Australians planning an overseas trip: ‘Anyone who is not fully vaccinated against measles is at risk of becoming infected when travelling overseas. You may also risk exposing others to this highly infectious, serious illness either while travelling, or when you return to Australia.’

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