Measles vaccine can save lots of community disruption

17 April 2015

When a young girl walked into the Te Karaka Preschool last July to pick up her brother and sister she had no idea what an effect that was going to have on her community. She had just returned from a holiday in Hamilton where there was a measles outbreak. When she walked into the preschool she had no idea that she had picked up the highly contagious virus and was now infectious herself

Once the measles had been picked up we were notified of what happened and had to act quite fast to keep our children safe, said head teacher Diana Trafford. “We really needed clear messages on how this would affect us.”

“The first thing we did was send all the babies home as they are the most vulnerable. The vaccine for measles is not usually given till 15 months of age so anyone under that age was not protected and they had to stay home for ten days. This caused lots of disruption for many families because so many of the mums were working. Thank goodness many of them had extended whanau who could help out.”

“We also had to send younger staff home that had not been fully vaccinated. This made us very short staffed. In the end our cleaner stood in as a teacher’s aid. Staff born before 1969 were immune as they would have been exposed to the measles virus as children, before the national vaccination campaign started.”

“The experience really brought home the importance of everyone getting vaccinated. If you don’t, it can have a real effect on the wider community around you. We encouraged all our families to make sure they were immunised and to check that all the children in their care were up to date with their immunisations. It’s just a matter of contacting your GP or practice nurse.

Thanks to all the efforts of the community the virus was contained says Tairāwhiti District Health Medical Officer of Health Geoff Cramp. Measles is an extremely contagious viral infection and can be more serious than people may think. One in three people with measles develops complications, including ear infections, pneumonia or diarrhea. Immunisation is the best way to protect you and others from the disease.”

The vaccine is an injection that immunises people against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). The vaccine is free for anyone who needs it – this includes the visit to the doctor. MMR is given in two doses, normally at 15 months and 4 years of age, which gives over 95 percent protection.