Youth 15-30 years measles immunisation campaign
19/10/2020 3:43:40 p.m.

Monday 19 October 2020

Youth aged 15-30 focus of new measles immunisation campaign

Youth aged 15 to 30 are the focus of a new measles immunisation campaign encouraging them to get protected from the serious and extremely infectious disease.

Lakes DHB Medical Officer of Health Phil Shoemack measles is a serious and highly contagious infection that can make you very sick. Left untreated, measles can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death. But it’s easily preventable.

Dr Shoemack says the only way to protect against measles is to be fully immunised and, with recent cases it’s important to make up-to-date immunisation a priority. Measles immunisations are available free at your GP and some pharmacies if aged 16 or over.

With the significant public health risk due to low immunisation rates, especially in young people; it’s critical to improve immunisation rates in our communities, Dr Shoemack says.

There are about 20,400 young people aged 15-29 in the Lakes district with about half of them (about 10,000) unimmunised and therefore unprotected from the disease.

Many young people missed out on measles mumps and rubella immunisations (MMR) as children. This means they are at risk of catching and spreading measles. Changes to the immunisation schedule in 2001 and less effective reminder systems before 2005 mean that many teenagers and young adults are not fully protected.

If young people are not sure if they’ve had two doses it’s recommended they get immunised. There are no additional safety concerns with having extra doses. The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has an excellent safety record and has been used in New Zealand since 1990.

The immunisations will also be delivered in a range of settings that young people frequent. This could include: workplaces, education sites, community and sporting events, pop-up clinics, marae, with home visits at a later stage.

At the end of 2019 New Zealand experienced a measles outbreak, which reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the country. Lakes DHB experienced a measles outbreak which saw people hospitalised, in isolation and a significant amount of contact tracing was required.

Following the measles outbreak, DHBs and the primary and community care sector have been working hard to maximise the uptake of the first and second scheduled MMR vaccines at 12 months and 15 months, and actively recalling children 5 to 14-year olds who have not had any or only one MMR vaccine.

We’re now focusing on the immunity gap in adolescents and young adults aged between 15and 30 years old.

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