Vaccinations encouraged

Photo: Getty Images
Anyone unsure of their immunity status is being encouraged to get vaccinated against the highly contagious disease as soon as possible. Photo: Getty Images

People born between 1970 and 1990 are being encouraged to check whether they have been vaccinated against measles, in the wake of an increasing number of cases of the disease in New Zealand this year.

Anyone unsure of their immunity status is being encouraged to get vaccinated against the highly contagious disease as soon as possible.

While most of the cases have occurred in Auckland, where many patients have been admitted to hospital, there have been pockets of measles in other places, including three cases last month in Queenstown.

Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack said 29- to 49-year­olds were a focus for the current vaccination campaigns because their parents/family doctors may not have a readily available record of their vaccinations.

‘‘This group tends to travel a lot and have young children, adding to the risk factors.’’

This group also pre­-dates the National Immunisation Register which was introduced from mid-2005.

Anyone who was not completely sure they had had two Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR)vaccines should get one now, she said.

‘‘There is no harm in having an extra shot.’’

Parents travelling with babies aged between 6 months and a year to places where they may be exposed to measles can get an early vaccination for the child (usually, the first vaccination is at 15 months). However, these babies would still need to be vaccinated at the standard recommended times, 15 months and four years.

Young babies inherited immunity from their mother, if she was immunised, and this could provide coverage in the first year when the immune system was immature and unsuitable for this type of vaccine.

Dr Jack said vaccine supplies were plentiful and would cover any spike in demand caused by the recent measles outbreaks.

Within the SDHB population, immunisation coverage of young children is above national rates, with between 93% and 95% of 2 year-olds, and more than 90% of 4 year-olds, having had their MMR vaccinations.

National figures for the year to the end of June showed 90% of 2-year-olds and 88% of 5-year-olds had received all of their scheduled vaccinations.

Those aged over 50 are considered likely to be immune because of the prevalence of measles in their youth.

ELSPETH.MCLEAN@thestar.co.nz 

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