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Health / People ‘really keen’ to check MMR status after measles cases

LOCAL health officials are expecting to see a rise in the number of people vaccinated against measles after recent cases were reported on the NorthLink ferry.

Two cases of measles were recorded on the ferry – which links Lerwick with Aberdeen – in October, with one person being treated in Shetland.

Public health and planning principal Elizabeth Robinson told a meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday that publicity around the cases has increased awareness of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

“People are really keen now to check their MMR status,” she said.

“We do think our figures will be going up there.”

The NHS says that measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications, although the effectiveness of vaccination has greatly reduced its prevalence in the UK.

Data shows that in the first quarter of 2019/20 84.4 per cent of two-year-olds in Shetland were vaccinated against MMR.

Figures released today (10 December) by the Scottish Government shows that nationally the figure in the quarter up to the end of September was nearly 94 per cent.

The MMR vaccine is given to babies around their first birthday, with a second injection generally coming before they start school.

A report from Robinson to board members highlighted that NHS Shetland has been identifying children aged between 12 months and five years who have not had any doses and calling them in, or ensuring they have an appointment for their 12 to 13 month immunisation.

The health board is also identifying children aged three years and four months to five years who have not had two doses of MMR at least a month apart.

The report added that as the UK has now lost measles-free status, all Scottish health boards are working on plans to increase MMR uptake – but this was “completely coincidental” to the local cases.

NHS Shetland is due to hold a debrief alongside other agencies to see if there are any lessons to be learned from the measles cases.