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HSE reports drop in children receiving certain vaccines

The HSE is urging parents to ensure their children receive all of the required vaccinations in order to avoid illnesses such as measles.

A doctor administering a vaccination shot to a patient
A doctor administering a vaccination shot to a patient
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images via PA Images

THERE HAS BEEN a drop in the number of children receiving certain vaccines, leading to the HSE warning parents that five GP visits are needed to protect their children from certain illnesses.

There has been a drop in the reported number of children receiving their Hib booster, as well as their third doses of PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) and Men C vaccines (which protects against meningitis and septicaemia), which they receive at 12 and 13 months of age, according to head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran.

For example, in the HSE Eastern area, the total percentage of children receiving vaccines has dropped from an average of 91% to 87%, while in the HSE Southern area, the percentage has dropped from 92.75% to 87%.

The HSE says that “the latest figures show that while overall immunisation uptake rates are improving”, and parents need to ensure that children are seen five times by their GP for immunisation in the first 13 months of life to be fully protected.

“Five visits to a GP are necessary in the first 13 months of a child’s life to ensure that they are fully protected against a range of serious, but preventable, diseases,” said Dr Corcoran.

World Health Organization’s (WHO) European Immunisation Week runs until Saturday 30 April.

Parents will be given information materials, including ‘immunisation passports’ to keep records of what vaccines their children have received.  These will be available from public health nurses and to download from www.hse.ie.

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures for 2010 show that 94% of children are protected against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio by the time they reach two years of age.

Uptake rates for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine have reached 90%, although this is still not sufficient to prevent measles outbreaks.

“We have seen a number of measles outbreaks in Ireland in recent years, which could have been prevented if enough children had received the MMR vaccine,” said Dr Cocoran.

A recent outbreak of measles in Europe was blamed on the failure to vaccinate all children. In Ireland, the incidence of measles decreased dramatically after the introduction of the vaccine in 1985, from 10,000 cases in that year to 201 cases in 1987.

From 2001 to 2006, there were 1,562 cases of measles reported in Ireland, which the HSE said was due to “incomplete vaccine coverage together with a pool of susceptible unvaccinated older children”.

Although immunisation uptake rates in Ireland have improved over recent years, they are still short of the World Health Organization target of 95%, the HSE says.

The 2010 immunisation uptake results can be viewed here and the 2009 results can be viewed here.

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