Measles warning for babies across the country

Babies can have both measles vaccines just a month apart if necessary in an outbreak.
Babies can have both measles vaccines just a month apart if necessary in an outbreak.

Parents of young unvaccinated babies living outside measles outbreak areas such as Christchurch have been urged to contact their GP to discuss bringing forward the first vaccine.

Massey University Infectious Disease Research Centre director Professor David Hayman said all parents should consider bringing forward jabs and keeping unvaccinated babies out of public spaces.

"With measles in the country it is really hard to know where it could pop up," he said.

"I'd phone your GP and see if you can get your child immunised as soon as possible. There's no reason why not, but they might be advising otherwise. It depends on the availability of vaccine as well."

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In New Zealand, children get a first measles vaccine shot at 15 months and a second at 4 years.

Hayman said they could have the shots younger and the second could be just a month after the first.

But he said the effectiveness of very young childhood immunisation was reduced. While infants between 6 to 12 months of age could be immunised against measles during an outbreak, infants that young were more likely to fail to become immune and the safety and effectiveness of other vaccine components (i.e. mumps and rubella) was still unclear.

Hayman said that was why the Ministry of Health was targeting children of 12 months and older.

Hayman said the risk to all New Zealanders was not knowing if measles was around them.

"People with measles tend to infect the nearest neighbours. But people with measles also get on cars and planes.

"The real issue with measles is sometimes you can't see the people who are infected because a proportion are infectious before they get the spots and the fever and the signs.

"You can have a child or an adult walking around shedding measles, but not showing signs. They don't stay at home or keep out of school because they don't know they are unwell."

The other risk group was a small proportion of people in the 29 to 50-year-old age group who had only had one vaccine shot and might not be immunised.

Hayman said people outside Christchurch should also check their immunisation status with GPs and eventually get the booster shot if needed.

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