The Health Service Executive has warned that complacency in relation to vaccines could cause deaths in Ireland.

In a statement this morning, the HSE said many European countries are reporting measles outbreaks, with over 4,000 cases and 18 measles-related deaths reported in Romania in the past six months.

HSE National Immunisation Office chief Dr Brenda Corcoran said: "Other countries with recent measles outbreaks include Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Belgium. An outbreak involving 40 cases occurred in Ireland as recently as 2016.

"Measles is one of the most infectious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and by close contact with an infected individual. With today's travel patterns, no person or country is beyond the reach of the measles virus."

Dr Corcoran warned that vaccination rates in Ireland are below target.

She said: "The only protection against measles is the MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine, at 12 months and 4-5 years of age, are required to be fully vaccinated.

"While uptake in Ireland has remained steady at around 92%, we need to increase uptake rates to the target of 95% to make sure that measles does not circulate here. 

"This is important for everybody but is particularly vital to protect young babies as they cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are 12 months old so they are vulnerable to complications, including death if they are exposed to measles infection."

Dr Corcoran also observed that there has recently been a decline in the uptake of the HPV vaccine because of unsubstantiated safety concerns.

She said: "This serves as a reminder that ongoing efforts are required to reach and maintain high vaccine uptake levels."