GPs in the Island are being advised to opportunistically offer the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine to any child, teenager or young adult who, for whatever reason, did not take up the recommended two doses of MMR vaccine when they were younger.
Measles outbreaks are occurring in most European countries, with Italy and Romania the worst affected. In Italy, 48 people have died of measles since 2016. In 2017, Italy and Romania each had more than 5,000 cases of measles, after MMR vaccination rates fell to 83% and 76% respectively. In Greece and France, where two-dose coverage of the MMR vaccine is 83% and 79% respectively, hundreds of measles cases have occurred.
Measles outbreaks are also occurring across England – these are mainly associated with travel to and from Europe. Between the start of 2018 and 31 May, there were 587 laboratory confirmed measles cases in England – with those areas reporting most cases being London (213), the South East (128), West Midlands (81), South West (62), and Yorkshire and Humberside (53).
Jersey’s 2017 vaccination statistics show over 95% of children received their first MMR vaccine dose by the age of two year and almost 92% had completed the full (two-dose) course of MMR vaccine by five years of age. There have been fewer than five laboratory confirmed measles cases in Jersey over the past decade.
Dr Susan Turnbull, Medical Officer of Health said: “Measles is a very infectious illness; it only needs brief proximity to one case of measles for infection to be very likely.Measles sometimes leads to serious complications and it can be fatal in very rare cases. Cases of measles are becoming increasingly frequent in all nearby countries including England. I strongly advise any parent who, for whatever reason, did not have their child protected in the past with two doses of the MMR vaccine, to now get their child vaccinated.”
Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes, the division with responsibility for offering vaccinations to parents said: “Two doses of MMR vaccine have been recommended for pre-school age children since 1996. Sadly, in the late 1990s, false allegations and scaremongering were made against the MMR vaccine and this still casts a long shadow over immunisation – particularly in some European countries. These are the countries now being affected by measles outbreaks. It’s mostly teenagers and young adults who missed out on vaccination when they were younger that have been affected during these latest outbreaks.
“In 2013, we offered MMR vaccination to teenagers in Jersey who had not been vaccinated when they were younger and over 100 teenagers came forward at that time and got caught up on their protection. Routinely, we offer the first dose of MMR vaccine when children are around a year old, and the second vaccine dose is offered when children are around three years four months of age. The majority of parents in Jersey recognise that the MMR vaccine is safe and they take up the offer to get their child protected.
“Any parent whose child has not received two doses of MMR vaccine can contact their GP surgery or telephone the Immunisation Nurse Specialist on 445790 or 07797 827391 to arrange vaccination. Young adults in their twenties or early 30s, who missed out on MMR vaccine in the past, can contact their GP practice to get caught up.”