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File photo of a measles-like rash on a young child Shutterstock/Prostock-studio
MMR Vaccine

HSE begins measles vaccination catch-up programme

HIQA has also launched public consultation on adding the shingles vaccine to the adult immunisation programme.

THE HSE HAS launched a measles vaccine catch-up campaign amid a rise in cases across Europe and the UK.

The campaign will focus on delivering the MMR vaccine to key groups who may have missed their vaccines in the past, such as children, young adults, and health and care workers.

The HSE will also provide “targeted clinics” for specific groups including students and young people in education settings, refugees, applicants seeking protection and other minority groups.  

There have been five confirmed cases of measles in Ireland so far this year, and in one of those cases an adult male died.

Dr Lucy Jessop, director of the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, today said that the “only protection against measles is vaccination”.

She explained that two doses of the MMR vaccine are needed and if a child or young adult is not fully protected, MMR vaccines can be obtained from your GP or HSE Vaccination Clinic.

A list of Vaccination Clinics is available here.

Jessop noted that measles is highly infectious and can be an acute and serious infection.

“It causes a rash illness, with cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis and high fever,” said Jessop.

Measles typically starts with cold-like symptoms that develop about 10 days after a person gets infected. The person will get a rash a few days later.

Symptoms include:

  • Cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and a cough.
  • Sore red eyes.
  • A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above.
  • A rash, which usually appear on the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body.

The illness usually lasts for seven to 10 days. You can read more in our explainer on the disease here.

Public consultation

Meanwhile, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has launched a public consultation on adding the shingles vaccine to the national immunisation programme for adults.

In December, HIQA published a health technology assessment (HTA) of the shingles vaccine for adults, following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

The aim of the HTA is to provide advice to the Health Minister to support a decision on whether to include the shingles vaccination in the adult immunisation schedule.

HIQA has published its draft health technology assessment and has launched a public consultation on its draft position. 

Dr Conor Teljeur, HIQA’s Chief Scientist, said the “shingles vaccine is safe and effective, but the benefit of the vaccine decreases over time”.

He added that at the current vaccine price, the addition of the shingles vaccination to the routine immunisation schedule for those aged 50 and over “would not be a good use of HSE resources”.


Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is typically recognised by a painful blistering rash on the torso.

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, which is commonly known as chickenpox.

After chickenpox infections resolve, the virus remains dormant in the body’s nervous system and may reactivate, typically several decades later, resulting in shingles.

Shingles can occur at any age and you can only get shingles if you have already had chickenpox.

shingles-disease-herpes-zoster-varicella-zoster-virus-skin-rash-and-blisters-on-body File image of a shingle infection Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The incidence and severity increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over 50.

While you cannot pass shingles to another person, coming in contact with shingles can cause chickenpox in someone who has never had it before.

Older people and people with a medical condition, or those taking a medicine that can weaken the immune system, have a higher risk of shingles.

Shingles vaccines are available in Ireland, but the HSE does not currently provide free vaccination and people must pay to be vaccinated.

The consultation period will last until 30 April and after the closing date, HIQA will assess all the feedback which will inform its final report.

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