I am concerned about the recent increases in measles cases in Australia and want to make sure our community is well protected against this very serious disease.
As at 5 April 2019, there had been 83 measles notifications in 2019, compared with 103 for the whole of 2018 and 81 for the whole of 2017.
I am very pleased that 93.5% of 2 year old children have received two doses of measles vaccine, which means they are now protected against this highly infectious disease. However, we know we need 95% of our community vaccinated to achieve community immunity, to help prevent the spread of measles.
Immunisation saves lives. The measles vaccine is very effective at protecting lives. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for full protection.
I urge all Australians to check their measles immunisation history – if you are not sure, talk to your doctor.
In particular, any individual planning to go overseas and those born between 1966 and 1994 (some of whom may have had only one dose of vaccine) are at higher risk and should take action to protect themselves and their communities.
The Australian Government provides measles vaccines at no cost through the National Immunisation Program for all individuals up to the age of 19 years. Most states also provide vaccines at no cost to some groups.
I am consulted with the Chief Medical Officer Professor Brenden Murphy on the course of action.
I am pleased to announce that the Australian Government has commissioned the independent and highly qualified Australian Academy of Science to work closely with measles experts to develop materials to raise awareness about measles amongst the community, with a particular focus on those most at risk of the disease such as travellers, and health professionals.
The Australian Academy of Science will develop and distribute promotional material to raise awareness amongst individuals and health professionals about the risks of measles and the importance of being fully vaccinated against the disease.
The promotion will be primarily through online channels and through engagement through media channels.
Four videos will be produced:
- A measles explainer, to describe the disease’s epidemiology and symptoms.
- An educational video for health professionals to raise awareness of increased notifications and the importance of talking to patients about their vaccination status and the availability of catch up vaccines (where appropriate).
- A promotion for travellers to ensure they are aware of the risks of measles in countries where the disease is endemic or where there are outbreaks, and that a cost effective vaccination option is available to protect them from the disease.
- A promotion for those born between 1966 and 1994, to encourage them to check their vaccination status and talk to their GP if they are not sure.
The videos will roll out in the coming weeks.