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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Department of Health urges parents to avail of MMR vaccine after alarming surge in measles cases

Professor Lourda Geoghegan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

Professor Lourda Geoghegan, Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

The Department of Health has advised that it’s likely there will be new cases of measles in Northern Ireland.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Lourda Geoghegan has emphasised that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine offers the best protection against the emergence of new measles infections locally. 

Professor Geoghegan warned that outbreaks of measles could occur unless we act to increase the uptake of the MMR vaccine in Northern Ireland. 

“There has been an alarming rise in measles infections across Europe this winter, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is currently reporting an increase in measles cases in England, and sadly last week health authorities in Ireland reported the death of an adult from measles.  

“While there have been no confirmed cases of measles in Northern Ireland since 2017, it is only a matter of time before the illness is reported here. The Department is working very closely with the Public Health Agency to monitor our situation locally.

“It is important that everyone is aware that the most effective way to prevent measles is by maintaining a high uptake of two doses of the MMR vaccine. It is essential that our uptake of the full course (two doses) of the MMR vaccine in Northern Ireland is increased and we all act now to address the threat of measles.”

Latest figures show that in Northern Ireland – around 89% of children had received their first dose of MMR vaccine at two years of age and 85% had received their second dose of MMR at five years of age. This means that we have fallen behind the WHO recommended uptake of 95% for two doses of MMR, achieving this uptake will protect individuals and our population from the risks of measles spreading.  

Symptoms of measles

Professor Geoghegan added:

“We forget, because we do not now see it regularly, that measles can cause children to become very sick and some who contract measles will suffer life changing complications. We need to remember that measles can cause serious infection and illness in adults. Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nose or throat secretions.  

“We have launched an MMR catch-up campaign in recent weeks across Northern Ireland. Through this campaign we are offering MMR vaccination to those aged up to 25 years old who may not have been vaccinated at all or who are only partially vaccinated.”

Routinely, the MMR vaccination first dose is offered when a child is one year old and the second when they are 3 years and 4 months old.

Parents and guardians of children under 6 years can protect their children by taking up the offer of vaccination when contacted by their GP. Those aged 6 to 25 years who have missed any MMR doses will be invited by letter to attend a local Trust clinic where they can be vaccinated.

The MMR vaccine has been used extensively since 1988 and is proven to be safe. Adults aged 26 years and over who have missed an MMR vaccine can approach their GP to request vaccination.

Next MMR vaccination catch-up clinic

Saturday 17th February at The Junction, Antrim – (Unit 68, next to Costa Coffee), 12:00pm - 3:00pm.

Children 6 - 15 yrs old who have not received both doses of MMR vaccine are invited to attend.

Information on further Trust clinics can be found at:


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