Should my child receive the measles booster?
The simple answer is YES! Over the last three weeks my practice has been inundated with calls from parents inquiring about the measles booster vaccine.
Why are we doing a booster?
At the beginning of May, Gauteng had 17 confirmed cases of measles. All these cases had occurred in a single month. 11 of the cases were from one family. None of the family members had been vaccinated against measles at all. The other 6 cases were also individuals who had not been vaccinated.
According to the department of health only 11 cases were previously reported in a full year so this current spike has to be addressed urgently.
A similar outbreak occurred in the Western Cape earlier this year. A total number of 35 cases were reported but through an effective campaign such as the one we are experiencing now the outbreak was contained.
Parents need to be made aware that measles is a nasty illness. Between 2009 and 2011 there were more than 18 000 cases of measles in South Africa and as a result a number of people died.
My child has been vaccinated. Must they still have the booster?
Most of the children in my practice received their measles vaccinations at 9 months and 15 months. Fantastic! Even if your child has had these vaccines you must have the booster. Not all vaccinations are 100% effective so by doing the booster you are ensuring the best possible protection for your child. All children between the ages of 6 month and 15 years should have the vaccination.
If your child received one of these vaccines in the last two months then you do not have to do the booster.
My baby hasn’t had the 9-month vaccination yet. What should I do?
The vaccine being offered by the department of health is recommended for children from 6 months of age and therefore your baby should have the vaccination even if he or she is not 9 months old.
Not all rashes are measles
Understandably there is a lot of concern about measles in our community, however parents must please be aware that there are a lot of illnesses that cause rashes.
I have seen a lot of children in my practice recently with rashes. Not one of these children had measles. The majority of rashes turned out to be either Coxsackie (hand, foot and mouth) or Roseola. Coxsackie typically starts on the palms of the hands or under the feat and then spreads to the rest of the body. Roseola starts with very high fevers for 3 to 4 days with nothing else to find. The fever then breaks and the baby gets a fine red rash all over the body (that is why some people like to call this “baby measles”).
If your child develops a high fever and a rash you must have it seen to. If the doctor suspects measles then this must be confirmed by a blood test. Measles is a notifiable disease which means that the department of health needs to be informed and specific protocols have to be followed.
Measles has specific characteristics. As mentioned above the illness is associated with high fevers and a rash. Over and above this the patient will have a runny nose, red eyes and a cough. Measles is a very serious illness and because of this the diagnosis must be confirmed and the necessary authorities informed.
Where do I go to get my baby vaccinated?
It was the aim of the department of health to have at least 95% of children in Gauteng vaccinated during May. The campaign was due to end on the 26 May 2017. Since less than 50% of children aged 6 months to 15 years have received the booster the campaign has been extended to the end of June 2017.
Many of the schools have been offering the booster so if your child’s school is offering the vaccine please have it done.
If your school has not offered the vaccine then there are a number of other places that you can go to. The government clinics, pharmacies and many private clinics will be able to assist you with the booster.