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06th Feb 2024

Plans made to vaccinate students against measles amid outbreak concerns

Anna Martin


The Government has been warned of a “high” risk of a measles outbreak in Ireland

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is expected to brief the Cabinet today that a significant increase in measles cases was notified in Europe this winter.

On top of this, there is a falling rate of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine uptake, which has raised concerns about wide transmission of the disease in Ireland this year.

Vaccination rates have fallen below the critical World Health Organisation level of 95 per cent in Ireland, and almost 1 in 5 males aged 18 and 19 are unvaccinated.

Credit: Getty

As a result, the Government hopes to roll out a catchup programme for Leaving Cert and college students.

Andrew Wakefield authored a paper, published in The Lancet in 1998, which falsely linked the MMR vaccine with autism which turned some parents off vaccinating their children against the disease.

An MMR catch-up programme was also launched in November through GPs, so unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated patients could get immunised.

Eligible children including those aged between 14 months and 10 years old who did not receive the MMR vaccine when they were 12 months old, and/or when they were four to five years old in junior infants could go to their GP.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses in the world but is preventable by two doses of vaccine.

Credit: Getty

The COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted routine immunisation efforts worldwide and as a result, the global effort to catch up has been making slow progress.

A report from the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November last year said there had been a “staggering” annual rise in measles cases and deaths globally in 2022.

The viral illness starts with cold-like symptoms that develop about 10 days after a person gets infected. The person will then get a measles rash a few days later.

The illness usually lasts seven to 10 days.