THE Public Health Agency is warning parents in Northern Ireland about the dangers of not vaccinating their children against measles.
The warning comes following an outbreak of the disease in Wales where hundreds of cases have been reported.
One person, a 25-year-old male has already died from the measles virus after not getting vaccinated.
Dr Richard Smithson from the PHA says over 98 per cent of children here receive the primary vaccines by two years of age, which is above the UK average.
But he explained that, because measles is so highly infectious, it is essential that every child has two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.
“Measles is a highly infectious disease which spreads very easily, particularly in schools and universities,” said Dr Smithson.
“It is never too late to get your child immunised with two doses of the MMR vaccine. We cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal.
“Delaying immunisation puts children at risk. The second dose is normally due at three years four months of age; there is no need to bring this forward normally, but if you think your child might be at particular risk then discuss it with your GP”.
There were nine confirmed cases of measles in 2012 and seven to date this year.
Dr Smithson warned that the outbreak in Wales has highlighted the fact that large pockets of teenagers and young adults who did not receive the MMR vaccine when they were young children and are now at high risk.
He added: “In Northern Ireland MMR uptake rates have always remained steady so we don’t have the same large groups at risk.
“Our most recent figures show just over 95% of children have received one dose of MMR vaccine by the age of two and by five years of age, nearly 97% of children have had one dose of MMR and around 90% have had the recommended two doses.
“However, because measles is so highly infectious it is essential that every child has two doses of MMR vaccine. The situation in Wales reminds us of just how important this is.
“I would say to parents of children of all ages, if your child hasn’t had both doses of MMR then contact your GP’s surgery to arrange this.”