05:31am Tuesday 26 May 2020

Measles outbreak in Ukraine – vaccination advice

Illustration photo - crowdSince January 2012, over 5100 cases have been reported and it is expected that this will increase. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that unvaccinated people traveling to the European Football Championships in Ukraine and Poland who have not previously had measles should take the vaccine in good time before they travel.

The Ukrainian outbreak is concentrated near the border with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, but it is expected that the outbreak will increase in the next few months and spread to more areas. As measles is highly infectious and vaccine coverage in Ukraine is low, there is a high chance of exposure to the measles virus. People who are unvaccinated or are not immune to measles are at significant risk of infection.

Measles is extremely contagious and is the most serious of the childhood diseases included in the childhood immunisation programme in Norway. Of the childhood diseases that can be prevented by vaccine, measles is the most common cause of death globally. Young children and children with other diseases are most at risk for serious complications, but older children and adults can also become seriously ill with measles.

Increased risk during the European Football Championships in 2012

The risk of contracting measles and other infectious diseases is likely to increase during the European Football Championships (EURO2012) taking place in Poland and Ukraine from the 8th June to 1st July 2012. Large crowds will gather in both football stadiums and city areas, which will promote the spread of infectious diseases.

Vaccine advice

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that anyone traveling to the Ukraine should be protected against measles, either as a result of previous infection or vaccination. Unvaccinated adults are recommended to take one dose of the MMR vaccine before travelling. Protection against measles is effective two to three weeks after vaccination so the vaccine should be taken in good time before departure. People who have had measles are immune and do not need to take the vaccine.

Children can be vaccinated from 9 months of age. If the first MMR vaccine is given before 12 months of age, the child should receive a second dose at 15 months. 

Vaccination is also recommended against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. People who have previously been vaccinated should have a booster dose every 10 years.

Low vaccine coverage in Ukraine

In recent years, vaccine coverage in Ukraine has decreased significantly, and according to reports from the WHO / UNICEF in 2010, vaccine coverage was 56 per cent for one dose of MMR vaccine and 41 per cent for two doses. Low vaccine coverage has also been reported for other vaccines (diphtheria-tetanus-whooping cough 52 per cent, polio 58 per cent).

Measles is highly contagious. The low vaccine coverage in Ukraine means that the measles virus can spread rapidly in the population. It is expected that the ongoing outbreak will spread unless effective vaccination campaigns are conducted in the unvaccinated part of the population. Due to generally low vaccine coverage in Ukraine, there is also the risk of outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases such as rubella (German measles), mumps, polio and diphtheria.

Since the vaccine coverage in Norway is 95 per cent, the risk of an outbreak of measles in this country is small.

In Norway, measles immunisation involves two doses of MMR vaccine given at 15 months of age and in the 6th grade in school.

  • Norwegian Institute of Public Health, PO Box 4404 Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo
    • Phone: +47 21077000
    • Fax: +47 22353605

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