Did you miss out on your measles vaccination?

9 March 2022

An estimated 5,000 people aged between 15 and 30 in Taranaki missed out on receiving their measles vaccination when they were young, but now they have the opportunity once again.

And it is vital that they do as our borders begin to open and visitors and those returning home start to arrive, potentially carrying the measles virus with them.

Anyone who has not received their measles vaccination ( which also covers mumps and rubella), or those who do not know if they did, can be immunised at any Taranaki DHB COVID-19 clinic. No appointment is needed, just walk-in and ask.

Gill Freeman, Immunisation Co-ordinator for Taranaki DHB, said “New Zealand has been kept protected from the rest of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic with border controls and quarantine requirements, so we currently do not have measles in the country.

“But soon our borders will open to welcome people from overseas, who will bring different viruses with them, including measles. As a significant proportion of our population carry reduced or no immunity to these diseases, a lot of people will get very sick very quickly.”

Measles is a severe illness that is highly contagious. Around 1 in 10 people need hospital care if they contract the disease, and it holds higher risks for children younger than 5 years of age, adults older than 20 years of age, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Mumps and Rubella can also cause long-term health issues, such as infertility in men, and can damage a developing foetus, causing significant and lifelong disabilities.

“The best way to prevent this disease taking hold in our communities is high vaccination levels – if 95% of people are immunised that gives us an effective ‘herd immunity’,” says Freeman. “It is quite safe to receive a booster dose, so if a person is unsure if they got it when they were young, they should have it now, to protect themselves and their community.”

The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine has been used in New Zealand since 1972 and is proven to be safe and effective. The vaccine consists of two injections four weeks apart, and it can be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccination. The first vaccine provides 95% protection and the second dose ensures those who need additional immunity get it.

People may be able to find out if they have received the MMR vaccination by by looking in their Well Child Plunket Book, if they still have it, or by contacting their GP, who may have this information. If they do not know, it is quite safe to have administered twice.

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