Makarios hospital paediatric department director Avraam Elias urged people to get their children vaccinated on Tuesday, amid a rise in measles cases in Europe.

He was quick to offer reassurances that no cases of measles have been recorded in Cyprus in the last month but said the World Health Organisation (WHO) is “sounding the alarm” over a rapid rise in case numbers in Europe.

According to the WHO’s latest figures, a total of 56,634 cases of measles have been recorded so far this year in 45 countries across Europe. Four have died from the disease.

This number is almost as high as the figure recorded throughout last year, when 61,070 cases of measles and 13 deaths from the disease were recorded in 41 countries in Europe.

Elias told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) on Tuesday that a total of eight cases of measles have been recorded so far this year, most of whom were unvaccinated.

He added that this generated a “concern” among doctors and the populace.

He said vaccination coverage in Cyprus against measles is around 80 per cent, and that this figure is considered to be “low” since WHO says herd immunity is achieved against measles when 95 per cent of the population is vaccinated against it.

He went on to explain that the vaccine against measles is part of a three-pronged vaccine which deals with measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

The vaccine is given in two doses, one when an infant reaches the age of 12 months, and the second three or four months later.

“It is good to get the vaccine to protect children from getting ill, because they can get ill, and very seriously ill,” he said.

He explained that measles is a common and highly contagious disease, which can be transmitted very easily to people who have not acquired immunity through either vaccination or infection.

Additionally, he was scornful of people who choose not to get their children vaccinated.

“The tactic of some parents to not vaccinate their children because the vast majority of children are vaccinated is completely wrong,” he said.

On Tuesday, WHO said measles can have a “devastating effect on children’s health”, and that young children are the most at risk of developing serious complications.

It added that the disease has “high hospitalisation rates” and weakens children’s immune systems long-term, making them more vulnerable to other infectious diseases.