Adults urged to make sure they get anti-measles jabs as cases rise

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 5:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 5:52am

Cases of measles in the city have risen sixfold since 2012, with around a third of them infants who had not yet been vaccinated, new government figures show.

While incidence of the disease dropped dramatically after the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1967, reported cases jumped from eight in 2012 to 38 in 2013, rising again to 50 last year.

Currently children receive the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12 months, followed by a second dose in Primary One, under the government's childhood immunisation programme.

However, pre-vaccination infants younger than one appeared to be vulnerable. Among 123 cases between 2010 and 2015, about 30 per cent were infants.

The government is advising adults, including foreign domestic helpers, to be vaccinated if they have not had any measles jabs before, while parents of children younger than one who travel frequently to the mainland should take extra precautions.

"The mainland offers the first dose of measles vaccine at eight months old and then at 1-1/2 years. We advise parents to follow the mainland's schedule to receive earlier protection," said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, a consultant in community medicine at the Centre for Health Protection. These children would receive a third dose when they entered Primary One in the city.

Another 33 per cent of measles cases over the past five years were adults aged 20 or above. More than half of those patients were born outside Hong Kong.

Centre for Health Protection controller Dr Leung Ting-hung urged any adult who had not previously been vaccinated to receive the MMR jabs.

"Foreign domestic helpers, for example, might not have had high enough doses. We can encourage them [to have extra vaccinations]," said Leung.

He said the single-dose measles vaccine in the 1980s might not provide enough protection. Double-dose MMR vaccines were not introduced until 1996.