Ireland plans national measles vaccination campaign after outbreak

Public health authorities in Ireland are preparing to roll out a national measles vaccination campaign following a major outbreak in County Cork.

The program is designed to be introduced in all secondary schools starting in September. It will then be expanded to include all primary schools, according to

More than 50 students in West Cork were infected with the illness and two required hospitalization last month. Most of the affected attended Schull Community College, but several of those treated were enrolled in primary schools.

Dr. Kevin Kelleher, the Health Service Executive assistant national director of health protection, said that the campaign is planned to increase the overall number of children protected against measles on a national level.

"From this coming academic year, we're going to have a catch-up program going through the schools, starting in the secondary schools and then moving down into the national schools as time moves on," Kelleher said, reports.

The HSE urged parents to vaccinate their children with some effect. There has been a surge of vaccinations in the West Cork area in response to the outbreak.

Dr. Brian O'Connell, a family practitioner in Schull who has treated more than 20 measles cases in the last few weeks, said he was surprised by the speed at which the illness spread.

"Thankfully, I think the message seems to be getting through that vaccination is the way forward with this," Schull said, RTE News reports. "If you're vaccinated, your chances of picking up measles are very slim indeed."

The West Cork region of County Cork is considered to have the lowest uptake of the MMR vaccine in Ireland with 86 percent coverage compared to the national average of 92 percent.