FAQs: Measles Outbreak 2019

Here are some of the frequently asked questions we've been answering about the current measles outbreak in Auckland. 

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Updated 19 September 2019

Q) Where can I get the MMR vaccine?

A) If you are based in Auckland, children can receiver their MMR vaccinations at 12 months and 4 years and for the rest of New Zealand, 15 months and 4 years. Vaccination is also recommended for those who have had susceptible close contacts within 72 hours of first exposure to measles when possible. If you fit within this criteria, you can get your MMR vaccine through your GP.

Q) How soon after vaccination will me and/or my baby be immunised?

A) It takes two weeks for you to be immunised following your vaccine, so if you’re planning on travelling to an area with a measles outbreak, please wait at least two weeks before doing so.

Q) Can we give the MMR vaccine due at 15 months early?

A) Infants living in the Auckland region are advised to get the first vaccine early at 12 months, and the second at 4 years. For the rest of the country it remains at 15 months and 4 years. The Ministry of Health has also recently approved a regional plan for Auckland DHBs to vaccinate babies 6 months and over, starting on 21 October, which will be reviewed again mid-December.

However, infants aged 6–15 months who are travelling to areas where there are serious measles outbreaks are able to get the MMR vaccine before leaving. For parents who request an MMR dose 0 (infants aged 6–11 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. Your child will still need two more doses of the MMR vaccine between the ages of 1 and 4 years old.

Q) Can we vaccinate our baby under 6 months?

A) Infants under 6 months are too young to receive an MMR vaccination. The best course of action if you have a baby under 6 months of age is to make sure all of those around the baby are vaccinated, and to avoid areas which are highly-populated.

Q) Can my child go in early for their second vaccine?

A) Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended to protect the child from measles, and according to the Nation Immunisation Schedule this is at 12 months and 4 years in Auckland, and 15 months and 4 years in the rest of the country.

The Ministry of Health’s priority is for people, especially children, to get their first vaccine, resulting in 90-95% of people being fully protected from measles.

However, on parental request, children can have their second MMR vaccine as soon as four weeks after their first dose. You will need to discuss this with your GP should you wish to bring the second dose forward.

Q) I was born before 1969, why am I immune to measles?

A) Generally, adults born before 1969 in New Zealand and overseas are considered to be immune to measles. No measles vaccine was available in New Zealand until 1969 and measles is so infectious that people born before this were highly likely to be exposed. For those born overseas, it is fairly similar as most countries introduced a measles vaccine in the late 1960s, 1970s or later.

Q) I was born after 1969 and I am unsure if I have been vaccinated, what should I do?

A) If you’re unsure if you have been vaccinated, try and check your medical records either through your own records or by contacting your GP. If you have no record of an MMR vaccine, it is safer to potentially repeat vaccine doses than rely on memory, potentially leaving you open to disease. You will need to wait until vaccine distribution returns to normal to get your vaccine, so please ask your GP if you can join their call list to be informed when you can book in for vaccination.

Q) How do I get immunity checked?

A) There is no need to get a blood test to confirm your immunity. Evidence of immunity for adults born prior to 1969, except those born in the USA, is simply being born before 1969. Evidence of immunity for adults born in 1969 or later is two documented doses of MMR vaccine. 

Q) I am currently pregnant, am I able to get the MMR vaccine?

A) No, live vaccines are not to be given to pregnant women. Make sure that those around you are vaccinated to help protect yourself until after birth.

Q) Can I get the MMR vaccine while breastfeeding, and will this help to protect my baby?

A) Yes, breastfeeding women can get the MMR vaccine and there is no risk to the mother or child once the vaccine distribution returns to normal. Maternal antibodies passed across through the placenta into the growing baby during late pregnancy provide the baby with the most significant passive protection during the baby’s early months of life. The best form of protection for your baby is ensuring all those surrounding the baby are immunised.

Q) Is there a vaccine shortage?

A) The current measles outbreak has created pressure across the health system, particularly in Auckland. There’s been high demand for vaccination in recent weeks and the priority is to ensure that all children are able to be vaccinated on time, the Auckland outbreak is controlled, and outbreaks elsewhere are prevented through active management of isolated cases. 

Q) How can we treat our child who we suspect, or has a confirmed case, of measles?

A) If your child has ANY measles symptoms please phone the PlunketLine as soon as possible on 0800 933 922. Each child is affected differently by measles so our nurses can do an assessment and make a plan with parents/caregivers on an individual basis, and they’re available 24/7.

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 3-7 of the illness: a blotchy rash (pictured) which tends to start on the face, behind the ears, before moving over the head and down the body. This lasts up to a week.

Q) I am getting conflicting information about what I should be doing, what should I do?

A) All of the latest information on the current measles outbreak can be found on health.govt.nz, but if you can have any specific questions or concerns, please give the PlunketLine a call on 0800 933 922 for free, 24/7 support.

Q) How can I help?

A) The first thing you should do right now, is make sure you and your family are vaccinated and if you’re not, get vaccinated.

PlunketLine is working really hard to deal with the sudden influx of calls from worried parents, and our frontline Plunket staff have been offering the MMR vaccine to parents of children they are immunising.

If you would like to donate to support the work of Plunket, you can donate here

 

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