Western Australians born in or after 1966 who are not fully vaccinated against measles can receive a free vaccine through a new State Government funded program.
The number of measles cases in WA has been increasing in recent years, with the cause linked to international travel. Today’s announcement comes ahead of the Easter break and school holidays, with many families planning travel overseas.
There were 36 reported cases of measles in Western Australia in 2018, the highest figure since 2014. So far, 16 cases have been reported in 2019.
Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for about 20 years, but small outbreaks do occur due to the infection being brought into Western Australia by tourists and residents returning home from overseas trips.
Approximately 30 per cent of measles cases require a hospital admission and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain.
The new free vaccination program addresses an important gap in the community’s protection against measles, as people born prior to 1966 are usually immune to measles due to having the illness as a child, and people 19 years old and younger are already eligible for the free vaccination through the National Immunisation Program.
Of the 36 measles infections last year, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) occurred among people aged 20 to 49 years of age.
People not sure if they have had two doses of measles vaccine, should see their doctor, immunisation provider or travel health immunisation clinic for the free vaccination. While the vaccine is free, there may be a fee for the consultation.
The new program will be funded through existing vaccination program funding – it has been prioritised to respond to a growing number of reported measles cases in Western Australia.
To learn more about measles or the free adult MMR vaccination program, visit the HealthyWA website.
As noted by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze. Complications from measles can be serious and in about 10 per cent of cases result in pneumonia.
“Prevention of measles is simple so I urge anyone who is not fully immunised against measles to take advantage of this free vaccination program, especially if you are planning a trip overseas. We want to stamp out measles and prevent future outbreaks of this serious disease in WA.”