Good response to vaccination clinics, but number of immunised still too low to stop spread

Immunisation coverage in Northland teenagers still too low to stop spread of measles

Dr Clair Mills, Medical Officer of Health at Northland DHB, strongly advises Northlanders to ensure their families are protected from measles. There have now been six confirmed cases of measles notified in Northland, with further cases expected.

“Historically vaccination coverage in Northland has been low. This means that only about 60% of our teenagers are fully vaccinated against measles with 2 MMR doses. 95% coverage is needed to prevent community transmission of measles” said Dr Mills.

“90% of our current two year olds have had one MMR, but only 78% of five year olds have had the second dose of MMR usually given at age 4yrs. Older age groups have even lower rates.”

There has been a good response to the Northland DHB’s extra vaccination clinics offered in Kerikeri, around 300 MMR vaccines given to date and general practice are also seeing more people requesting MMR.

Dr Mills emphasised that immunisation is the best protection from this potentially serious disease.

One MMR dose will offer 90% protection. If you (or your child) have not been vaccinated or you don’t know if you have had 2 MMR doses, you should have one dose now. The second dose can be given within one month of the first.

Dr Mills said it’s better to get vaccinated now, rather than wait for more cases to be confirmed, “If there are cases in your child’s school, non-immune students will be asked to stay home for two weeks, this will have a huge impact on families and schools.”

“Measles can be a very serious illness, with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea and on average 1 in 10 requiring finding themselves in hospital. This said, hospital admission rates in recent NZ outbreaks have been even higher.”

Measles is spread by tiny droplets in the air and is very infectious, easily spreading to those nearby. The first symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes) can be mistaken for a cold, with the rash (appearing on the face and neck and spreading over the body) three to five days later.

“This is an avoidable disease where there is an effective vaccine. Immunisation protects not only the individual, but also stops the spread of this disease within our communities.”

Unimmunised people who have had contact with a person with measles, will normally be advised to stay at home and away from all public places, school or work for 14 days after their contact.

“Anyone born before 1969 or who has received two doses of MMR can reasonably assume they are already immune.”

Dr Mills says anyone displaying symptoms of measles, which include fever, cough, runny nose, sore red eyes, followed by a rash spreading from the head and neck over the body, should immediately telephone their doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.

There is also a Northland DHB Measles Hotline 0800 222 030 for any queries related to measles or MMR vaccination.

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