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Vaccination gaps lead to increased measles cases

Vaccination gaps lead to increased measles cases

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The World Health Organization's stated goal is to eliminate measles – but we are still far from achieving this goal. In Styria, 2023 was a strong year for measles. Experts believe that vaccination gaps are the reason behind this.

Last year was a strong year for measles in Austria with more than 180 cases, and Styria was a hotspot with more than 100 cases.

“Measles is not a harmful disease for children.”

Measles can cause serious secondary illnesses, which is why cases are closely monitored, says Andrea Griswold, head of the Austrian Measles Committee. Last year, Austria had more measles cases than almost any other European country, with only Romania reporting more. “Of the 183 cases we had in Austria, 115 can unfortunately be attributed to Styria,” says Griswold.

“The infection will increase soon.”

Maybe the fact that Styria is the hotspot is just a coincidence, but we expect infections to happen again in the near future, “because the school ski sessions start again, where you meet other children, where the ball season starts again, and where there are a lot of people – children.” “And adults, of course – returning from holidays in other countries over the Christmas holidays.”

You need better vaccination coverage

In order to eliminate measles, you need a vaccination rate of 95 percent — and we're far from that, says Griswold: According to the Department of Health, 87 percent of children ages two to five have been vaccinated twice. There are gaps in vaccination among people aged 20 to 30 years: “In the past, the first vaccination was given around the second year of life and then years later, and then it trickled down.”

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Andrea Griswold expects that about 120,000 young people across Austria will be vaccinated only once and therefore do not enjoy any protection. Measles vaccination is free.

Measles infection can weaken the immune system for years. According to experts, secondary diseases such as pneumonia or middle ear infections often occur, and in rare cases measles can also lead to meningitis.