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  • The Ministry of Health is advising the public that vaccination is the only way to prevent measles in persons who have not had the disease.
  • In light of the current outbreak of measles in the United States, which has now spread to 17 states, the Ministry has embarked on a campaign to ensure that all children between 1 and 6 years old are given both required doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
  • Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on February 24, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, explained that the measles vaccine is the way to develop immunity, to ensure that if you are exposed you do not become infected with the virus.

The Ministry of Health is advising the public that vaccination is the only way to prevent measles in persons who have not had the disease.

In light of the current outbreak of measles in the United States, which has now spread to 17 states, the Ministry has embarked on a campaign to ensure that all children between 1 and 6 years old are given both required doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on February 24, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse, explained that the measles vaccine is the way to develop immunity, to ensure that if you are exposed you do not become infected with the virus. “So, we want to encourage parents and guardians and remind them that the vaccine is extremely important,” she emphasised.

The first dose of the MMR vaccine is generally given at age 12 months and according to Dr. Ducasse, it provides approximately 93 per cent immunity. She added that the second dose will take it up to about 98 per cent.

Dr. Bullock Ducasse pointed out that Jamaica achieves approximately 95 per cent coverage for the first dose, and that in recent years the coverage for the second dose has fallen to as low as 70 per cent.

She pointed out that the ministry has implemented some measures to address this matter, which include amending the vaccination schedule to have the second dose administered at 18 months when parents are still in vaccination mode, instead of the previous recommended age range of 4-6 years, when many parents admitted to having forgotten to take children in for the second dose.

“The ministry is hoping to achieve coverage for 195,000 children which would include the 2 and 3 year olds who are not yet due to have the second dose of MMR; those who did not have routine vaccines and those who are just now becoming eligible for their vaccines at 12 months and 18 months,” Dr. Bullock Ducasse said.

“We are therefore encouraging parents with children up to 6 years and even those a little older who have not received the second dose, to come in and have them vaccinated,” she urged.

Dr. Bullock Ducasse informed that the disease has been eliminated in Jamaica since 1991 through the success of a robust immunization programme, and as a result, a large percentage of the population is not familiar with it and would not likely have the immunity that comes from acquiring the disease. She said the disease is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract, spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with persons who are ill and it can remain alive on surfaces for up to two hours.

“It presents with a flu-like illness, very high fever, runny nose and cough, with the possibility of developing a very easily identifiable rash. It is a fine rash that starts on the head and neck then spreads across the entire body,” she explained.

The Acting CMO warned of the possibility of severe complications, including pneumonia. She said it is a serious disease that can affect the lining of the brain and can also lead to death.