Belfast Telegraph

Warning as vaccine uptake drops

Parents have been warned to protect their children against potentially killer diseases as figures show a drop in the uptake of vaccines.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said infants need five GP visits in the first 13 months of life for full immunisation.

Dr Brenda Corcoran, of the national immunisation office, said there has been a drop in numbers getting the Hib booster and third doses of PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) and Men C vaccine, which protect against meningitis and septicaemia.

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

"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."

A new guide to childhood immunisation for parents has been launched to coincide with European Immunisation Week, which runs until Saturday.

Meanwhile, Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) raised concerns over the drop in uptake of life-saving vaccines. Young adults and children are most likely to carry the bacteria that cause meningitis - inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord - and septicaemia, the blood poisoning form of the disease.

Up to 300 cases are recorded each year with one in 10 patients dying. A further 20% of survivors are left with after-effects including brain damage, deafness, blindness and limb loss.

Clodagh Hegarty, medical information officer, said: "Many types of bacterial meningitis can be prevented through vaccination. It is vital that parents ensure their children are fully vaccinated against strains of meningitis and are also aware of the signs and symptoms of the diseases as this can save a life."

Pharmaceutical firm Novartis has applied for the European licence for a new vaccine for Meningococcal Group B (Men B) disease, which is responsible for the majority of cases in Ireland.

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