Thousands get immunized against measles

Nearly 3,000 Central Albertans have received immunizations against measles in the two weeks since an outbreak of the disease was declared.

Nearly 3,000 Central Albertans have received immunizations against measles in the two weeks since an outbreak of the disease was declared.

Outbreaks were declared on April 29 in Central Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton following the confirmation of 22 measles cases in the three zones, seven of which were in the Central Zone. Since that date, three more cases have been reported in Alberta.

The outbreak was declared in part to allow the dissemination of the vaccine to infants under one year old during the period of increased risk. Children in Alberta typically receive the first dose of the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMR-Var) vaccine at the age of 12 months and the second shot between the ages of four and six.

Since the declaration, 680 infants between six- and 11-months-old have been immunized in the Central Zone.

Three mass immunization clinics have been held in Red Deer, with three more scheduled for Friday and May 20, and 24. The clinics are for infants less than one year old, those one and up who have not received their first shot, anyone four and up or born since 1970 who has not received a second dose, or any health-care workers not immune to measles.

Over 1,200 doses of the MMR-Var vaccine have been given since the outbreak announcement, plus 975 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The former is typically given to younger children.

Central Zone medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in addition to the formal clinics, the health authority has added capacity at public health clinics throughout the region, with extra nurses and time slots for those dropping in.

“We will continue to make sure that people can get vaccine quickly, not only as long as the outbreak lasts, but even after it’s over. … People can get that vaccine very easily either at those mass clinics or at their local public health centre,” said Hinshaw.

The declared outbreak will likely remain in effect for at least another three weeks, but consideration of the situations in other areas will take place before the local designation would be lifted. It has been three weeks since the last case was confirmed.

“We’re through what we would call one incubation period, but because we know that not every case of measles necessarily goes to the doctor or we don’t always find out about it, we wouldn’t declare the outbreak over until another period has passed. At the moment, we’re still watching and on alert for any new cases,” said Hinshaw.

The remaining mass clinics in Red Deer will take place at the Johnstone Crossing Community Health Centre at 300 Jordan Parkway. The next two are scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the last clinic set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The vaccines are given out for free.