The Ministry of Health has stated there’s a risk of measles this winter. Measles, mumps and rubella can all be very serious illnesses, but measles is particularly dangerous. It can lead to pneumonia, brain infection and sometimes death, and it spreads very quickly. The MMR vaccination helps protect you and your tamariki, and it’s free.
Symptoms of measles
The first symptoms of measles include a fever, cough, runny nose, sore and watery pink eyes (conjunctivitis), and sometimes small white spots on the back inner cheek of the mouth.
Day three to seven of the illness: a blotchy rash that tends to start on the face, behind the ears, before moving over the head and down the body. This lasts up to a week.
Plunket's guidelines on measles
- The best thing New Zealanders can do is check their children’s MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination status and if they are not immune, get them vaccinated. Measles is highly infectious, and immunisation is the best way to protect against getting measles.
- You can check yours and your child’s immunisation status by calling your family doctor or checking your own health records.
- If you were born BEFORE 1969 (and you’re 50 or older), you are considered to have immunity.
- Two doses of the measles vaccine provides the most effective protection for you, your family and the wider community. After one dose of the MMR vaccine, about 95% of people are protected from measles. After two doses, more than 99% people are protected.
- If you are based in Auckland, ensure all children receive their MMR vaccinations on time at 12 months and 15 months to maintain the national Childhood Immunisation Schedule.
- Infants aged six to 15 months who are travelling to areas where there are serious measles outbreaks are able to get the MMR vaccine before leaving, if the primary healthcare provider believes this to be appropriate. For parents who request an MMR dose 0 (infants aged six to 11 months) due to concerns about their infant being at high risk of exposure, a GP may provide a prescription for this vaccine dose to be administered if felt to be appropriate. The vaccination is FREE.
Rest of New Zealand
- If you are NOT based in Auckland, you should still ensure all children receive their vaccinations on time at 12 months and 15 months to maintain the national Childhood Immunisation Schedule.
- Vaccination is also recommend for those who have had susceptible close contacts within 72 hours of first exposure to measles when possible.
- Vaccination can also be given to those travelling to areas with serious measles outbreaks (international and Auckland) for infants under 15 months. If you have children under five who are not up to date with their scheduled MMR vaccinations, we recommend they are vaccinated at least two weeks before travel to areas where there are serious measles outbreaks.
If you don’t meet the above criteria:
For those who don’t meet the above priorities, it is recommended that your GP include you on a recall list for when vaccine distribution returns to normal. When stocks are secure, GPs should be offering two documented doses of MMR vaccine for free to those who need it, as per the New Zealand Pharmaceutical Schedule.
Infants aged under six months are too young to receive an MMR vaccination.
Travelling to the Pacific
American Samoa, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Tokelau and the Solomon Islands are requiring travellers to show evidence they've been vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before arrival.
It is highly recommended all travellers to any Pacific Islands are vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before they travel. It is also important you carry documented proof of vaccination or evidence of immunity with you. This may include medical records, laboratory tests, immunisation record summaries, or letters from your GP.
In New Zealand, children receive their first MMR dose at 12 months and their second dose at 15 months as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule.
However, infants aged from six months who are travelling to an outbreak area should have one dose of MMR at least two weeks before they go. Please note that any child vaccinated before 12 months of age will still need two further doses of MMR in line with the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule.
People who are not immune, have symptoms of measles or who have been in contact with someone who has measles in the last 14 days should not travel.
What to do if you suspect you have measles
If you (or a family member) suspect you have measles, you should stay at home.
You can call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for any advice. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also call your doctor to check if you need to be seen, and – this is really important – what their process is if you do. If you have measles it is important to avoid spreading it to others in the waiting room.