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300,000 people to be offered measles catch-up vaccine

Over 300,000 people are to be offered a measles catch-up vaccine, under plans drawn up by health officials.

The programme will be rolled out because of the public health threat from measles.

There has been one confirmed case of measles here so far this year, which resulted in the death of a man in early February.

An increase in cases has been seen in the UK and across Europe.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly is expected to bring the new €4.6 million vaccination plan to Cabinet on Tuesday.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that can cause serious complications, particularly in children under one year of age, pregnant women, and the immunosuppressed.

The catch-up programme would involve an intensive campaign over 12-13 weeks, delivering vaccination to a range of groups, including: part of children and routine catch-up, young people up to age 24 years, healthcare workers and underserved populations, such as Travellers, Roma, people who are homeless, refugees and applicants seeking protection and other vulnerable migrants, and those in custodial settings.

The next priority group would be those aged 25 to 34, and then also offering of vaccination to those born after 1978.

People born here before 1978 are likely to have immunity to measles.

It is estimated that around 11% of the population aged 18-34 are not immune to measles.

The new immunisation programme would be delivered mainly by GPs and occupational health staff. HSE Immunisation Teams may also be involved.

A catch-up programme for children up to the age of 10 has been in place since November.

The second MMR vaccine was brought forward to the first term of the school year to boost the protection of children.

There were four measles cases reported in 2023, two reported in 2022, no cases reported in 2021 and five cases were reported in 2020.

There were no deaths reported in any of those years.

The HSE says that MMR vaccination is the best way to protect from measles. Two doses of MMR vaccine are needed to be considered fully vaccinated.

The first dose is normally given by a GP when a child is 12 months of age. The second dose is given by school vaccination teams when a child is in junior infants.

The first symptoms of measles are: cold-like symptoms such as aches and pains, a runny nose, sneezing and a cough, sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above (fever), which may reach around 40 degrees Celsius and small greyish-white spots in the mouth.

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