May 1, 2014 12:22 pm

Vaccination rate too low to prevent measles outbreak in Saskatchewan

A nurse uses a syringe to prepare an injection of the combined Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination. Saskatchewan health officials say the vaccination rate in the province is not high enough to prevent a measles outbreak.

GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images

REGINA – Health officials in Saskatchewan are warning current vaccination levels in the province are not high enough to prevent a measles outbreak.

Officials made the announcement Thursday after three probable measles cases were reported in the Prairie North Health Region.

There have been 12 confirmed cases in the province so far in 2014.

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“Saskatchewan’s current childhood vaccination rate is not high enough to prevent outbreaks,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer.

“Parents need to ensure their children have received two doses of measles vaccine by age two. If their children are running behind schedule, now is the time to make an appointment with public health,” said Shahab.

While 89 per cent of children have had one measles vaccination by the age of two, only 75 per cent of children in Saskatchewan have had two measles vaccinations by their second birthday age.

Officials say two doses of measles vaccine are required to offer the maximum protection and are usually offered in combination with mumps, rubella and varicella in one vaccine at 12 months and again at 18 months.

Shahab said even though children should wait until 12 months for the first vaccine, children from six to 12 months who are travelling to Calgary, Edmonton or central Alberta, where an outbreak has been declared, should be vaccinated.

Even with the earlier dose, Shahab said those children still need to be vaccinated at 12 and 18 months.

Measles is a highly infectious airborne disease that is potentially serious.

Symptoms include high fever, cough and a runny nose followed by a rash, which generally starts on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body.

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