Limerick health chiefs warn of measles outbreak due to low vaccine uptake

Limerick Health Chiefs Warn Of Measles Outbreak Due To Low Vaccine Uptake
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David Raleigh

Health chiefs have warned the Limerick region is at risk of a potentially deadly measles outbreak due to Shannonside having the lowest take up of the measles vaccine outside of Dublin.

The Department of Public Health Mid-West confirmed that it investigated a single case of measles in the region in late November/early December.


It was the first case of measles in the country since 2020, and the first case in the Mid-West since 2018 when an outbreak led to 40 cases, including some which were traced outside of the region.

“We are concerned about the uptake of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine in the Mid-West which has dropped since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” read a statement released by the Department of Public Health Mid West.

According to the latest provisional data, Limerick has one of the lowest rates of MMR uptake in the country (82.6 per cent), followed by Clare at 89.1 per cent and North Tipperary at 88.9 per cent in the Mid-West region.

“Due to these rates, we are vulnerable to a measles outbreak in the community,” added the Department.


According to the latest cohort data, two Dublin regions have the lowest levels of take up of the MMR vaccine (3 in 1 vaccine), including Dublin North West (76.5 per cent) and Dublin North Central (73.3 per cent).

There were also worrying low levels nationally of take up of the DTaP-IPV Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis and Polio Vaccine (4 in 1 vaccine) among junior infants in Ireland, according to the latest data published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

There were only four regions nationally (Sligo/Leitrim, Carlow/Kilkenny, North Cork and Wicklow) where 95 per cent and upwards of four and five-year olds received the DTaP-IPV and MMR jabs.

Contagious but preventable

The Department of Public Health Mid West said that although measles is “a highly contagious virus that can result in serious complications in young children, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems”, it is “almost entirely preventable through vaccination” and is “free of charge” through childhood and school vaccination programmes.


“However, it requires 95 per cent vaccine coverage to prevent outbreaks in the population.”

Spread through coughing and sneezing, measles usually starts with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a red rash that starts on the head and spreads downwards over the face, neck and body, and “can result in chest infections, fits, ear infections, swelling of the brain and brain damage”.

“We are encouraging all parents to ensure that their child is protected against measles. Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended—the first at 12 months of age, and the second at four to five years of age.”

Dr Breda Cosgrove, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at Public Health Mid-West, said the recently confirmed measles case in the region was “a reminder of the threat posed by this highly contagious virus”.


“In Limerick and across the Mid-West, we are not reaching 95 per cent vaccination coverage that's needed to achieve community immunity and protection from this disease,” Dr Cosgove said.

“MMR vaccine will protect your child against measles so it's really important to keep up-to-date with your child's vaccines. If you are delayed with your child's vaccines, please contact your GP practice to arrange an appointment,” she added.


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