The Irish Times view on the measles outbreak: An unnecessary exposure

Some 95 per cent of eligible children need to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella(MMR) vaccine to prevent outbreaks

Some 95 per cent of eligible children need to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella(MMR) vaccine to prevent outbreaks. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Some 95 per cent of eligible children need to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella(MMR) vaccine to prevent outbreaks. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

 

More than 41,000 children and adults across Europe have been infected with measles in the first six months of 2018 and at least 37 people have died, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

That the number of measles cases seen this year far exceeds the annual totals for every year this decade is shocking. It suggests the vaccine preventable disease is becoming endemic in some European countries. Seven countries in the region have seen more than 1,000 cases this year.

So far in 2018, 76 cases of measles have been detected in the Republic, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). This compares to just one confirmed case in the same period last year. And experts are concerned that chains of measles transmission have continued for longer than 12 months in some instances.

Some 95 per cent of eligible children need to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella(MMR) vaccine to prevent outbreaks. Across the continent, vaccine uptake reached 90 per cent in 2017; however there are major disparities at local level with coverage below 70 per cent in some areas.

Many of the measles cases detected this year are in teenagers and young adults who missed out on their MMR when they were children. This followed a spurious claim based on inaccurate research linking the MMR vaccine with autism, which decimated vaccination rates for a number of years. Measles can cause serious illness for some.

While primary vaccination of young children is the most important method of eliminating future outbreaks, older children and young adults must actively check their immunisation status. This is especially important for those planning trips to Europe, those about to go to university and young people attending large gatherings. We must heed the clear message from WHO: “Good health for all starts with immunisation, and as long as measles is not eliminated we are failing to live up to our sustainable development goal commitments.”

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