18 March 2024, by Emily Proctor

An ongoing measles outbreak in Eindhoven has seen at least 15 cases being reported across the city. Officials at the GGD Brabant-Zuidoost, but also in other regions including The Hague, have urgently called for children to be vaccinated against the disease, which can be fatal. 

Vaccination rates have plummeted, causing cases to rise

According to public health experts, the critical percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated against measles in order to keep the disease under control is 90 percent. This target is not met in several regions at the moment, as the number of children being vaccinated against the illness has plummeted since the COVID-19 pandemic

Some parents of children at Dutch schools have argued that they choose not to vaccinate their children against the illness on the basis of the now discredited 1998 publication by Andrew Wakefield claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in children. This paper has been debunked by leading researchers across the globe, and was suspected to be a conflict of interest as Wakefield held a patent for a rival vaccine at the time of publishing his research.

Despite this, there is still a lot of confusion, speculation and misinformation about measles vaccinations, not only in the Netherlands, but across the world, meaning that the illness is on the rise, particularly in Europe where high rates of vaccination have begun to fall.

Measles is a highly infectious illness which can be fatal

Though there is no need for alarm, authorities are keen to get control of the situation before more people become unwell. GGD Brabant-Zuidoost advises people who are unvaccinated and develop complaints such as fever and rash to stay at home and contact their GP by telephone. 

Those under the age of 14 months cannot yet be vaccinated, so it is important to take care with young infants if coming into contact with people who have health complaints that could be related to measles. Otherwise, the vaccination is routinely offered to children at the age of 14 months, with the second dose of the injection being given at the age of 9 years.

Symptoms of measles include fever, feeling unwell, sneezing and coughing. “Infected people usually also have inflamed eyes. After three to seven days, spots appear on the skin. These spots first appear behind the ears and then spread over the entire body,” says the website of the GGD Zuidoost-Brabant. Statistics show that while most people who contract measles survive, one in four end up in hospital, and between one and two per 1.000 die from the disease. 

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