Beating measles: Do we need stronger laws?

On Saturday the WA Department of Health released a media alert for anyone who had visited areas of west and southwest Perth between October 14 and October 19.

Those people affected may have been exposed to the measles virus, if they’re not vaccinated they are at risk and should be mindful to the onset of measles’ symptoms.

The Mumps-Measles-Rubella vaccine is free for everyone born before or during 1966. Graphic: Samuel Maclean.

This follows last month’s outbreak which affected the Rockingham area and resulted in eight confirmed cases of the virus.

In the Health Department statement Dr Donna Mak said, “Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease, and if you and your family members have been fully vaccinated, you are not at risk.

“However, we remind people aged 20-53, that they should receive a Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) booster vaccination as soon as possible, because even if they were vaccinated as children, they are likely to have only received the single dose of vaccine recommended at the time, whereas we now know that two doses are required for optimal immunity.”

WA introduced a ‘No jab no play’ policy in July this year which restricts parents from enrolling their children in kindergarten and childcare centres if they are unvaccinated without a medical exclusion.

The law is designed to reduce the number of parents who choose to not vaccinate their children.

Dr Katie Attwell, a political scientist at the University of Western Australia believes these changes are appropriate. “If too many people are not vaccinating and wanting to enter these public spaces, then we have a disease risk.”

At the same time Dr Attwell believes any further laws should be a last resort.

“The last thing you want to do is be cracking down on people when actually you could’ve been increased your coverage rates by ensuring better services to help people who do want to get vaccinated.”

WA vaccination rates remain below the national average.
Photo: Samuel Maclean.

Anti-Vaccination Australia, a Facebook community with more than 7,500 followers, has played down the severity of the outbreak.

“[The media release] Doesn’t state the vaccine status of the carrier. Plus, the fact that 5 cases is considered an outbreak is scare mongering. The MMR vaccine sheds too.”

According to the WA Department of Health the vaccine status of the carrier is confidential information.