Aussies are being urged to head to the doctors to receive a new measles vaccination with experts claiming many adults could still be at risk of contracting the viral infection, despite having been vaccinated already, following a recent outbreak.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Dr Katherine Gibney has advised all who received the vaccination between 1965 and 1990 to get checked out by their general practitioner after a total of 13 people, who had been vaccinated at least once in the past, were hospitalised with the disease.
Shocking research published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal found that between 2014 and 2017, a small number of measles cases had what is called secondary vaccine failure, meaning they had at least one dose of the vaccine and showed antibodies in their blood, but that the protection waned and they contracted measles.
Speaking about the incidents Gibney said Australia’s effective elimination of measles in the past has actually put people at risk as they aren’t getting a natural immunity boost as the disease isn’t circulating in the community.
“If you had been vaccinated and came into contact with someone with measles you might get a little natural boost in your antibody levels,” she explained.
“Overall, in countries that have eliminated measles transmission, this is likely to emerge as a problem. There isn’t going to be an enormous number of cases, but it will be important in terms of recognising measles, because the cases are a bit different to those who aren’t immune.”
Measles is considered a highly infectious disease, with an estimated 110,000 deaths worldwide in 2017, mostly in children under five. It is so contagious that 90 per cent of people who are not immune, who then come into contact with a case, will become infected.
In usual cases of measles, patients would have symptoms such as a fever, cough and runny nose but in these were missing from the recent cases with people only showing signs of a rash.
It is for this reason Gibney has advised Australians receive a second dose of the measles vaccine to ensure they are protected.
“Anyone who is unsure if they have had two doses of measles vaccine should see their doctor about getting an additional dose,” she said.
“In particular, adults born after 1965 might not have received two doses of measles vaccine during their routine childhood immunisation. The Victorian Government provides the measles vaccine free of charge for these people.”
Gibney added: “More work needs to be done in the area of a third vaccine before we can routinely recommend this – we need to know definitively if a third booster shot will extend the immunity to measles for a lifetime.”
The latest advice follows warnings to residents in Sydney that they may have been administered expired or incorrectly stored vaccinations over the past nine years.
Last week Sydney Local Health District released a statement explaining that as many as 3,000 patients may have received the dodgy vaccines since 2010 at a general practice in the suburb of Burwood. The vaccines administered by two GP’s included measles mumps and rubella (MMR), the seasonal flu formulations and a range of vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.
Patients vaccinated by Drs Darrel and Brinda Weinman at the 40 Lindsay Street practice in Burwood may need to be revaccinated as many vaccines given may not have been effective.
“While NSW Health does not have responsibility for GPs, we are assisting co-regulators the Medical Council of NSW and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission in investigating and responding to these incidents,” Dr Leena Gupta, Clinical Director of Public Health in the district, said in a statement.
“We are writing to patients of that practice to ask them to get advice from a new GP on the need for revaccination.”
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