Following a recent spate of measles cases being reported in a number of Australian states, NPS MedicineWise is reminding parents to check whether their children’s immunisations are up to date before they head back to school next week.
NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says that measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can travel freely across borders.
“Widespread vaccination has made measles a relatively rare infection in Australia, but outbreaks can still occur and we have seen some cases here in recent months,” he says.
“In most cases the infection has been caught overseas, brought home and spread to others who aren’t immunised.”
Measles causes fever and a full-body rash, and can also have serious complications like pneumonia and brain inflammation (encephalitis). It is a leading cause of death in young children worldwide.
“Vaccination is the best protection against measles, and because of these recent cases in Australia, NPS MedicineWise is urging parents to check their children have had their recommended childhood vaccinations,” says Dr Boyden.
“With families preparing to send their children back to school for the new school year, it’s a great time to check that everyone in your family is up to date on their immunisation schedule.”
The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is given to 1 year old children and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine is given at 18 months as part of the National Immunisation Program.
Recent changes to the law in NSW, effective 1 January this year, mean that before enrolling your child in child care (pre school), you must provide documents that show your child is either fully vaccinated for their age, has a medical reason not to be vaccinated, has a parent or caregiver who has a conscientious objection to vaccination, or is on a recognised vaccination catch up schedule.
Dr Boyden emphasises that vaccination doesn’t just protect you or your child from measles infection: it also protects vulnerable people in our population who can’t be vaccinated.
“When enough people are vaccinated against measles, it prevents the spread of infection,” says Dr Boyden.
“This protects our population as a whole – especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated, children who are not yet fully vaccinated, and anyone with a weakened immune system who can’t be vaccinated.”
If you are not sure if you have had measles, or if you need to be vaccinated, talk to your doctor.