What does the measles outbreak teach us about vaccination?

Preventable illnesses are only preventable when the majority of the population is vaccinated. With the recent wave of measles outbreaks around the world, it is clear that a drop in vaccination rates is dangerous.

In late July, the 27th confirmed case of measles in Victoria was found from a passenger at Melbourne Airport. This seems incredible when in 2014 Australia was officially declared measles-free.

Nine out of 10 people who come in contact with the measles virus will become infected if they are not immunised.

This year, New York City declared a health emergency after a measles outbreak infected a community that had been swayed by anti-vaxxers. Nearly 300 cases were recorded in the city alone. It’s become such a concern that a district in New York state took measures to ban all unvaccinated children from public spaces to avoid a disaster.

The risk of no vaccination

According to VicHealth, those who have only had one dose of measles vaccine, or are not immunised at all, are at the greatest risk of contracting measles. People who are immunocompromised are also at risk. And babies are at risk of rare fatal complications from the disease.

The federal Department of Health says the number of worldwide cases has increased substantially – with 110,000 deaths caused by measles in 2018.   Unvaccinated Australians travelling overseas risk becoming infected and carrying the disease back to Australia. Given its highly contagious nature, measles can spread like wildfire.

Prevention is the best medicine

Some people spread misinformation about side-effects or complications from vaccinations. Research has proven that immunisation does not cause autism in children. The paper, and doctor, behind the claim of autism was found to have violated ethical issues, failed procedural due-care and was involved in a financial conflict of interest.

The measles vaccination, commonly referred to MMR (a triple vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella) is a live vaccine. This means the immunisation shot actually contains strains of the diseases that elicit an immune response that protects individuals against contracting the diseases.

Once the booster dose is administered, only 1% of people will develop measles if exposed to the infection.

All the information about the MMR vaccine here in Australia is publicly available on the Australian immunisation handbook website. This website is managed and updated by the government and is a reliable source of information. If you have questions about immunisation, you should consult factual resources such as this, a Maternal and Child Health Nurse in your state, or your GP.

Modern medicine has made incredible advances to stave off preventable diseases. But all this progress will be diminished if vaccination rates drop. High immunisation rates help to protect your health and the health of your family and community.

Category: FamilyHealth

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Article by: Defence Health