The first measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination has been brought forward to 12 months from 15 months in Auckland because of the region’s measles outbreak.
This change is being made with immediate effect to protect those most vulnerable in this outbreak.
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) and Ministry of Health are recommending all 12 month old children in the region receive their first MMR early to protect them from measles.
ARPHS Clinical Director, Dr Julia Peters, says GPs can provide all four 15 month vaccinations at the same time for convenience and simplicity. These include the MMR vaccine and vaccines against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), Hib (Haemophilus influenzae) and chickenpox infections.
“With a 12 month MMR vaccination, there’s no extra dose to be added. Children will continue to receive the second MMR at four years as usual,” Dr Peters says.
“We have seen a significant number of young babies with measles, many of whom have been hospitalised. Receiving the first dose of MMR at 12 months will increase levels of immunity in the community and provide added protection for these infants.
With assured supplies of the MMR vaccination in the region, ARPHS is also asking primary care providers to recall all children aged less than five years who have missed out on their first MMR vaccination.
This year there have been 104 cases of measles in Auckland with 43 percent in those aged less than five years. The next highest risk age group are those aged 15 to 29 years, making up 30 percent of confirmed cases.
“The virus is now spreading around the Auckland region. The only effective way to reduce the impact of measles is to increase vaccination rates in the region,” says Dr Peters.
At this time, there are no changes to the vaccination schedule for other parts of New Zealand. However, children travelling to countries where there are measles outbreaks can be vaccinated with MMR as early as 6 months of age (see the Ministry of Health’s travel advice). A vaccination given between 6 and 12 months will not replace the subsequent scheduled doses.
In Auckland and everywhere else, older children and adults aged up to 50 years who have no documented evidence of vaccination against measles are recommended to receive an MMR vaccine.
The MMR vaccination is free for eligible people (although your GP practice may charge an administration fee). Those over 50 years of age are considered immune as they will have been exposed to the disease during their childhood.
“Measles is one of the most highly infectious viruses, and anyone who is not immune and who has been the same space with a case is at risk of developing the illness,” Dr Peters says.
People should watch for the signs and symptoms of measles – fever, cough, runny nose and sore red eyes. After three to five days, a rash appears on the face before moving down the body.