Opinion | The urgent need to immunise older age groups

April 24th, 2012 5:01 pm| by admin

The European region today faces a very worrying resurgence in measles, a disease that countries had hoped to eliminate by 2010. Yet, in 2011, Europe reported more than 37,000 cases of measles, including 10 measles-related deaths, and the elimination target date has been pushed back to 2015. Outbreaks in several western European countries, and now an outbreak in Ukraine, have led to growing concern over the possibility that upcoming international sporting events, such as the Olympics in London and the European football championship, could lead to further spread of measles. In a worst-case scenario, these events could even result in exporting measles to other parts of the world.

Against this backdrop, it is important to realise that the majority of reported measles cases in 2011 occurred in individuals age 14 and older. Understanding that comprehensive childhood immunisation is the cornerstone of any successful immunisation programme, it is clear that vaccinating individuals in older age groups against the measles virus is an equally important step in our determined march towards measles elimination.

Some of the adults we have seen infected with the measles virus never received a second dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV), due to past single-dose policies, which have proven to provide less than optimal immunity. Others have simply missed doses or have never been immunised in the first place. These people remain at risk since they are susceptible to measles infection. In Denmark, for example, the measles immunisation programme only began in 1987, leaving many adults under-immunised due to suboptimal coverage for many years.

After more than a decade with a minimal number of measles cases, the disease has surged in Denmark, particularly among young adults. For this reason, adults under 39 years of age who have not been vaccinated previously have been offered MMR vaccination free of charge from April 1 through the end of 2012. We encourage public health authorities in other countries to develop strategies to offer additional or missed doses to these individuals. We also encourage frontline health care workers to reach out to patients in these age groups and work with them to ensure they are immunised.

To adults and to parents, particularly of older adolescents, we strongly encourage you to check your own immunisation status. If you have no verification of receiving two doses of MCV, you may be at risk of becoming infected with the measles virus. If this happens, you could potentially spread this highly contagious disease to unimmunised or under-immunised family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues. You could spread this disease to infants – even your own child – who are still too young to be vaccinated against measles, but who are at high-risk of complications if they become infected with the virus. You could spread measles to people who, due to mitigating health factors, cannot be vaccinated and therefore depend on those around them to help protect them from disease.

In addition to making sure that all children are fully immunised on time and in keeping with national immunisation schedules, we urge you to check your own status and to get any missing vaccinations, measles or otherwise. Your decision to do so will protect not only you, but also your family and your community.

Sometimes drones present danger to public security, for instance, when they get too close to airports (photo: iStock)
Falcon centre on Samsø to train birds of prey to destroy hostile drones
A falcon centre on the Danish island of Samsø is considering training bir...
Pegida was founded in the eastern German city of Dresden in 2014 as a protest against Muslim migrants in Germany (photo: Kalispera Dell)
Five men arrrested in anti-Islam demonstration
Five men were arrested at an anti-Islam demonstration that took place on Ax...
The donations will be divided among 12 Danish non-profit organisations, including CARE Denmark, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, Red Barnet, Danish Red Cross and UNICEF Denmark (photo: iStock)
Danes donate almost 100 million kroner to charity campaign
Danes have donated 97 million kroner to a national fundraising campaign org...
People are encouraged to report their observations and any possible findings of a meteorite to ildkugle.dk or stjerneskud.info (photo: H. Raab)
Meteorite hits Denmark
On Saturday night, hundreds of Danes witnessed a spectacular phenomenon as ...
Everyone's cheating in the orienteering championship (photo: iStock)
Union Views: A career is like orienteering
A career is like orienteering – in order to reach your goal you need to k...
Snacks and drinks to accompany football sounds like a great night (photo: iStock)
It promises to be one L of a Super Bowl!
It’s around this time of year that you’ll notice some of your American ...