Of all diseases, measles is one of the most dangerous and contagious. It’s so infectious that, if you’re not vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has measles, you’re very likely to catch it and pass it on to others.
Measles spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can cause a rash, ear infection, diarrhoea, and seizures caused by fever.
In 1 in every 1,000 cases, it causes inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Some people who develop encephalitis die, while 1 in 3 are left with permanent brain damage.
Measles can also lead to pneumonia, which is the main cause of death from measles.
If you get measles while you’re pregnant it can make you very sick and can harm your baby.
Measles is now the third most common vaccine-preventable cause of death among children throughout the world.
During New Zealand’s last measles outbreak in 2019, 40% of children who caught measles were admitted to hospital.
New Zealand is at high risk of a measles outbreak
This year we’ve already had cases of measles reach our shores.
Not enough people in New Zealand are immunised against measles, which means it could just take a single case of measles to start an outbreak.
We need at least 95% of people living in New Zealand to be immunised to prevent an outbreak of measles. Importantly, this would also protect babies too young to be vaccinated, and those who are severely immunocompromised.
On average, 1 dose is 95% effective against measles, and 2 doses is more than 99% effective against measles.
When it’s given and catching up
The MMR vaccine is offered to tamariki on the schedule at 12 months and 15 months, but an additional early dose may be available if there is an outbreak of measles.
For those who missed out on their MMR immunisations, it’s free for everyone under 18 years old – it does not matter what your visa or citizenship status is. This includes visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand.
For people over 18 years old, the MMR vaccine is free if you’re a resident, or eligible for free healthcare in New Zealand. Adults born before 1969 are not able to have an MMR vaccine.