Measles vaccinations for Auckland children now available from 12 months old

Auckland children will now be able to be vaccinated for measles from 12 months old.

As of June 11, 104 cases of measles have been confirmed by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS), prompting an immediate change in policy to "protect those most vulnerable in this outbreak".

The ARPHS and Ministry of Health are now recommending that all 12-month-old children in Auckland receive their first measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

Previously, children received the vaccination at 15 months old, along with vaccines against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), Haemophilus influenzae (Hib), and chicken pox infections.

These vaccines will also be able to be administered at 12 months for "convenience and simplicity," according to ARPHS clinical director Dr Julia Peters.

"We have seen a significant number of young babies with measles, many of whom have been hospitalised," Dr Peters said on Wednesday.

"Receiving the first dose of MMR at 12 months will increase levels of immunity in the community and provide added protection for these infants."

The announcement was welcomed by Starship.

Leilani Hipa, a Starship community nurse, said it was "heartbreaking" to see children suffering from a preventable illness".

"Parents, it’s really important you get your children vaccinated so they can avoid catching this horrible virus. Your kids can have the vaccination free of charge at your GP," said Hipa.

ARPHS is also calling on primary care providers to recall all children aged less than five who may have missed their first MMR vaccination.

Of the 104 cases, 43 percent were children aged less than five. The next highest risk age group are those aged between 15 and 29, who make up 30 percent of confirmed cases.

"The virus is now spreading around the Auckland region. The only effective way to reduce the impact of measles is to increase vaccination rates in the region," says Dr Peters.

There will be no changes to the vaccination schedule in other parts of the New Zealand, but children travelling to countries where they are measles outbreaks can be given the MMR vaccination as early as six months old. This does not, however, replace further scheduled doses.

The service continues to call for anyone else aged up to 50 years old who have "no documented evidence of vaccination against measles" to receive a MMR vaccine.

Measles can be highly infectious and spread through breathing, sneezing and coughing. It can be very serious and lead to hospitalisation, and, in rare cases, death.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose and sore red eyes. After three to five days, a rash can appear on the face which moves down the body.