Measles Immunity Gap Expands in Italy

53 percent of international travelers eligible for the MMR vaccine are not vaccinated before departing

Italy is confronting a measles outbreak in 90 percent of the country with financial penalties, but will it work?

The ongoing Italian measles outbreak has reached 4,487 cases through Sep 13, 2017, reported by The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Over 88 percent of the people with measles were unvaccinated.

Most of the measles cases (90%) has been reported in seven Italian regions, lead by the central region of Lazio. The median age of this group was 27 years old.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has targeted Measles for elimination in Italy, as well as the rest of the world. However, Italy remains one of the 14 countries with ongoing endemic transmission. 

According to the WHO, ‘the main reason for this outbreak is the sustained low uptake of measles vaccine in Italy over the years.’

To confront this health issue, the Italian government approved a law during July 2017,  extending the number of mandatory vaccinations in persons up to 16 years of age.

Italian Social Services Minister Christian Porter said, "The government considers there is no excuse for parents who, for no valid medical reason, choose to not immunise their children.”

"These parents are not only putting their own children's health at risk but they risk the health of every other child.”

Separately, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning for international travellers to Italy. The CDC recommended that travellers going to Italy ensure they are protected against measles.

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According to research, more than 53 percent of US travelers who are eligible for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, are not getting vaccinated before leaving the country.

The CDC recommends that anyone who isn’t protected against measles, either through vaccination or past infection, should get vaccinated before international travel.

The CDC recommends one dose of measles vaccine for infants aged 6–11 months and two doses for children aged 1 year or older.

“Most measles cases in the United States are the result of international travel,” said Gary Brunette, M.D., M.P.H., chief of CDC’s travelers’ health program.

“Travelers get infected while abroad and bring the disease home. This can cause outbreaks here in the United States. The measles virus is a highly contagious virus and spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing,’ said Dr. Brunette.

In the USA, Merck is the manufacturer of two mumps vaccinations. MMR and ProQuad both contain the protection for mumps, as well as protection for measles and rubella.

The ProQuad vaccine is indicated for active immunization for the prevention of measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella in children 12 months through 12 years of age.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector vaccine prices for general information.

Most pharmacies offer the MMR vaccine, and vaccine discounts can be found at this webpage.