Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Campaign aims to boost uptake in infant jabs

HSE concerned over parents not finishing child immunisation programmes, writes EITHNE DONNELLAN Health Correspondent

PARENTS NEED to ensure their children are seen five times by a GP for immunisation in the first 13 months of life to ensure they are fully protected against a range of life-threatening conditions including meningitis C, the HSE has said.

While overall immunisation uptake rates are improving in the Republic, there is concern about a drop in the number of children receiving their Hib booster which protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B, as well as their third doses of PCV (pneumococcal vaccine) and meningitis C vaccines, according to the head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran.

For children born since July 2008, it is recommended they get three doses of the meningitis C vaccine – at four, six and 13 months of age – and that they get their Hib booster vaccine at 13 months.

They should also get three doses of the PCV vaccine – at two, six and 12 months.

Health Protection Surveillance Centre figures for 2010 show that 94 per cent of children across the State are now protected against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio by the time they reach two years of age.

“This is a great improvement and a credit to parents, GPs and healthcare workers. But some work remains to be done,” said Dr Corcoran.

“Uptake rates for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine have reached 90 per cent, 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,” she added.

Some 95 per cent of children need to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks. This is the World Health Organisation target for uptake of vaccines.

In an attempt to boost uptake rates further, the National Immunisation Office will today launch a new guide to childhood immunisation for parents.

It aims to remind parents that 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.

Immunisation passports will now also be given to parents to keep records of what vaccines their children have received.

These will be available from public health nurses when they visit the homes of parents with newborn babies, and available to download from hse.ie.

Dr Corcoran stressed that immunisation was a simple, safe and effective way of protecting children against certain diseases. “Vaccines have saved more lives worldwide than any public health intervention other than the provision of clean water,” she said.

Immunisation uptake rates vary across the regions, but are highest in the northeast and northwest and lowest in the east.


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