Czechia registers first measles outbreak after two-year absence

The Czech Vaccinology Society blames the concerning news on declining vaccination rates amid parental skepticism and misinformation. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 07.02.2024 15:43:00 (updated on 07.02.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Vaccinology Society (CVS) has reported that measles cases have reemerged in the Czech Republic, with four recorded since January and one reported in December of last year. All cases were in unvaccinated people. This follows a two-year total absence of cases.

Fewer vaccinations to blame

Despite mandatory vaccination efforts in the Czech Republic, vaccination coverage has dwindled. Overall vaccination rates against diseases have declined from 94.1 percent in 2010 to 88.4 percent in 2020, primarily due to parental reluctance – especially among those with higher education levels.

Jaroslava Marhanová from the National Institute for Research on Socioeconomic Impacts of Diseases and Systemic Risks attributed this hesitancy to various factors, including concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as misinformation perpetuated through social networks. She emphasized the need for depolarization efforts to foster constructive dialogue and boost confidence in vaccinations.

Measles is highly contagious and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Such is its contagiousness that if one person has it, nine out of 10 people of all ages around the infected person will also become infected if they are not protected. Adults can get measles, too.

“Measles is not a forgotten threat. In 2023, the number of measles cases in Europe and Central Asia increased by an incredible 3,000 percent compared to 2022,” said CVS chairman Roman Chlíbek on social media site X. He noted that neighboring countries to Czechis also reported a surge in cases: Austria with 172, Germany with 72, and Poland with 32.

Improving communication with public

Marhanová underscored the importance of enhancing communication skills among healthcare professionals and adapting strategies to engage with parents effectively, particularly through social media channels. She stressed the necessity of tailoring information dissemination to cater to the younger generation.

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope as the number of administered MMR vaccines, which protect against measles, rubella, and mumps, is rising. Data from the Institute of Health Information and Statistics indicates a gradual increase in MMR vaccinations.

This is not the first time Czechia has battled against measles mini-outbreaks. In 2019, the country registered almost 600 cases alone. However, the arrival of Covid-19 (and subsequent social-distancing measures and lockdowns) reduced the total case number to less than 10.

Czech doctors and hospitals typically administer the first dose of the measles vaccine when a child is between 12 and 15 months old. This is provided under state health insurance.

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