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Catch Up On Your Free Vaccination To Avoid Catching Measles

If you’re between 15 and 30 years old and haven’t had your MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, or you’re not sure, get your free immunisation now.

Last year more than 2,000 Kiwis got sick from measles and more than 700 needed hospital treatment, while 80 people in Samoa, mostly children, died from the disease.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Cheryl Brunton says last year’s measles outbreak and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic have shown the impact infectious diseases can have when we are not immune.

“Now is the time to catch up on the vaccinations we have easy access to, such as MMR, to protect our community and whānau in the future,” Dr Brunton says.

People born between 1990 and 2005 have the lowest immunity against measles and are most at risk of catching it because a higher than usual proportion of this age group didn’t have their scheduled childhood MMR vaccinations. This group is not only more likely to catch measles but also spread it to others, which is why there is now a national catch-up programme focusing on improving the immunity of this group.

In most people, one dose of MMR vaccine ensures about 95 percent protection from measles, while two doses provide around 99 percent protection. The vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella. It is safe to have an MMR even if you are unsure if you have been fully immunised.

“We’re urging everyone aged 15 to 30 years old to get at least one MMR vaccination to help prevent future outbreaks of measles.

“Ask your doctor, parents or caregiver if you had two doses of MMR as a kid, and if you didn’t or aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to get one MMR dose now,” says Dr Brunton.

General Practice teams across Canterbury have started inviting people in this age group to come in for their free measles catch up. You can also get an MMR catch up from some pharmacies if you are aged over 16.

“Measles is more than eight times more infectious than COVID-19. It can make you very sick and affect your health for the rest of your life.

“Getting a catch-up MMR vaccination now will make sure you and those around you are protected in the future,” says Dr Brunton.

MMR is also part of the childhood immunisation schedule (which moved to 12 and 15 months from 1 October). Anyone born after 1969 continues to be eligible for two free MMR doses.

For more information about measles and the MMR vaccination, visit the Ministry of Health’s website protectagainstmeasles.org.nz.

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