Simon Harris considering legal advice on compulsory vaccinations for children
Figures from Unicef showed the number of measles cases in Ireland increased by more than 200% in a year.
Ireland’s Health Minister said he is considering legal advice on whether it is possible to make vaccinations mandatory for children in schools.
Earlier this year Simon Harris wrote to Attorney General Seamus Woulfe seeking advice about the possibility of introducing mandatory vaccine programmes in schools and creches.
He wrote to Mr Woulfe after figures from Unicef showed the number of measles cases in Ireland increased by more than 200% in a year.
The increase is part of a worldwide trend of rising cases of the disease, which is being attributed to scaremongering and misinformation.
Speaking at the launch of the HPV vaccination programme, Mr Harris confirmed he has received preliminary advice from the government’s legal adviser.
“I’m still considering that and I intend to meet with him and with other government colleagues on it,” he said.
“I think it’s fair to say we absolutely can do some things and there are other things that may be more challenging to do, legally.
“There is certainly scope to do some things. But I need to be clear on this, I have no interest in doing something for the sake of doing something or to be seen to be doing something. I want to do things that are effective.
“I intend to look at the AG’s legal advice, to meet with him on it, to talk to other government colleagues, the Minister of Education, the Minister for Children, to look at the issue of creches and to look at the issue of schools.”
Unicef said increasing numbers of young people around the world are being left unprotected against measles, which can cause disability and death.
It found that an estimated 169 million children around the world missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 – an average of 21.1 million a year.
In Ireland vaccines are recommended by health officials but are not mandatory.
Parents must consent to vaccinations for children and young people up to the age of 16.
Eleven European countries have mandatory vaccinations for at least one out of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, poliovirus, Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella.