DUBAI // Children in the UAE are at low risk from the measles outbreak sweeping southern Europe thanks to a stringent national immunisation programme, doctors said.
This week, the World Health Organisation warned that the disease was spreading fast wherever immunisation coverage had dropped, and particularly in Italy and Romania.
In January, Italy reported more than 200 cases, while Romania reported more than 3,400 cases and 17 deaths since January last year.
However, Dr Saima Khan, a family physician at a community clinic in Dubai, said that even if children travel to Europe in the summer, they should be all right as long as they have been vaccinated.
She had not seen any cases of measles in Dubai in the past 13 months.
However, she warned families who had a child younger than a year old to perhaps reconsider travelling to countries where there are outbreaks.
“Babies until 12 months do not get the vaccine and will be at more risk if travelling to such places. Risk is much lower in older children,” Dr Khan said.
In November 2015, the Ministry of Health launched the National Campaign for Vaccination against Measles for everyone aged between 1 year old and 18.
“[MMR vaccination] is a part of the national immunisation schedule in the UAE,” said Dr Khan, a Brit who has a nine-year-old son.
“The first vaccine is given at 12 to 15 months old and the other at four to six years of age.
“Although the vaccine does not ensure 100 per cent immunity, if immunised, the chances are negligible of getting these infectious diseases.
“Even if one gets it, the severity of illness is less and the risk of complications is far less than unvaccinated individuals.
“Schools in Dubai keep the vaccination record of each pupil. Vaccination records need to be submitted in schools.”
In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield published a controversial report that showed the link between the measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR] vaccine and autism in children.
However, research – including a 2014 review using data from more than 1.2 million children – concluded that no relationship between the vaccination and autism exists.
Kanwal Rehman, a 35-year-old American mother of three in Dubai, said there were lots of rumours about MMR vaccinations, but parents had to make the right decision for their children.
“I have been reading many studies against the MMR but, ultimately, as a parent, one has to see which is the bigger risk for your child,” she said.
“You have to weigh up the risk associated with the vaccine compared to being exposed to the disease.”