Measles vaccination to focus on 42-52 age group as cases rise

March 26, 2019 13:03
Airport staff line up for measles jabs on Monday. Photo: The Staffs and Workers Union of Hong Kong Civil Airlines

Health authorities urged Hong Kong residents aged between 42 and 52 to get vaccinated against measles if they plan to go to countries at high risk of measles outbreak.

The city has confirmed 20 measles cases so far this year, or more than the annual number of cases in Hong Kong for the past five years, according to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) under the Department of Health.

Calling the situation this year unusual, CHP controller Dr. Wong Ka-hing said most Hongkongers born in 1967 or before had contracted measles, which made them immune to the disease, but those born between 1967 and 1977 (aged 42 to 52) should have been vaccinated only once, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

If those in the 42-52 age group plan to go to countries at high risk of measles outbreak such as Japan, they had better get vaccinated once again, Wong said.

It has been noted that one in four of this year’s measles cases involved workers at the Hong Kong International Airport.

That being the case, the health department called a meeting on Monday to explain to representatives of relevant organizations, including airline companies, the Immigration Department and the Customs and Excise Department, what the situation is and what preventive measures they should take.

The CHP set up a restricted zone at the airport on Saturday, and added another one outside the restricted zone on Level 5 of Terminal 2 on Monday.

A CHP spokesman said the target group covers people working at the airport who were born in 1967 to 1984, who have not received two doses of measles vaccination, and who have not been infected with measles before.

According to the health department, 884 people had been vaccinated at the airport as of Monday.

Dr. Ho Pak-leung, president of the Carol Yu Centre for Infection at the University of Hong Kong, said cases of measles infection in relation to the airport are likely to increase and another round of infections following the current small-scale outbreak should not be ruled out.

Leung urged the government to assist new immigrants and non-Hong Kong citizens working at the airport in getting vaccinated as it is hard to check their vaccination records.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told media on Monday night that Hong Kong has not seen any community outbreak because most citizens are believed to have antibodies against the measles virus.

Still, Chan said, the government will secure more vaccine supplies, and asked pharmaceutical companies, medical associations and medical groups to provide private doctors with information on how to get them.

The Hong Kong branch of GlaxoSmithKline, one of the suppliers, said it has asked its headquarters to increase the supply to meet the city’s increased demand, adding that the next batch is expected to arrive by mid-April.

– Contact us at [email protected]