Measles catch-up vaccine to be offered to 310,000 people

Fears of virus outbreak persist as cases continue to rise in rest of Europe


More than 300,000 people are to be offered a measles catch-up vaccine under plans to come before Cabinet on Tuesday.

The catch-up vaccine programme has been drawn up over fears of outbreaks of the highly infectious virus in unprotected segments of the population.

Measles cases continue to rise across the UK and the rest of Europe, although so far in Ireland 12 cases have been reported and only one of these has been confirmed.

Marginalised groups, healthcare workers and young adults aged up to 24 years are expected to be targeted in the first phase of the campaign, which is expected to cost €4.6 million.


A catch-up programme for children up to the age of 10 was put in place last November, and the second MMR vaccine was brought forward by a school term to boost children’s protection.

It is now intended to offer a catch-up vaccine to 310,000 people, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will tell Cabinet.

A 12-13 week campaign will be aimed at children, young people up to 24, healthcare workers, groups such as Travellers, Roma, refugees, people seeking international protection, other migrants and prisoners.

The next priority group will be those aged 25 to 34, and then those born after 1978. People born in Ireland before 1978 are likely to have immunity to measles.

Most of the vaccines will be delivered by GPs and occupational health teams, although HSE immunisation teams may also be used.

Last week, a further nine possible cases of measles were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Six were identified in men or boys, with the other three in women or girls.

The latest figures come following the death of a man earlier this month.

A 48-year-old man died from the disease in a hospital in the midlands. It is believed he contracted the viral illness following a trip to Birmingham, in the UK, where a large outbreak of measles is ongoing.

There were four cases of measles in the country last year, two in 2022, none in 2021 and five in 2020. No deaths were reported in any of those years.

Measles is a highly contagious disease, which is spread by coughs and sneezes and can be serious at any age.

According to the World Health Organisation, cases of measles in Europe last year rose 45-fold, in an “alarming” increase.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times