Childhood vaccination rates in Ireland at highest ever levels
The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre has published new information to mark European Immunisation Week, showing that childhood immunisation rates in Ireland are at the highest levels ever recorded.
While welcoming the fact that more children in Ireland are now age appropriately vaccinated than ever, it is still important to remind parents that children needed to fully complete the childhood immunisation schedule to be protected against a range of serious vaccine preventable diseases.
Some children, teenagers, and adults may still be vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases because they were never vaccinated, incompletely vaccinated or have lost their immunity as a result of age or illness or duration of time that has elapsed since their immunisation. For some vaccines, booster doses may be needed after a period of time to counteract waning immunity (most commonly tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis/whooping cough).
The fact that more children in Ireland are now protected against vaccine preventable diseases than ever before reflects the confidence parents have in vaccination to prevent what used to be the most common infectious diseases of childhood. The work of many health professionals including GPs, practice nurses, community medicine and public health doctors and nurses needs to be recognised in bringing about the increased uptake, all of whom support and strive to improve the national immunisation programme.
It is important to use immunisation uptake data to identify areas where there are inadequate levels of vaccination uptake, indicating an increased risk among the children to these diseases and to outbreaks. Reasons for under vaccination should be identified and measures taken to address the underlying reasons.
All childhood vaccines and the administration of these vaccines are free of charge to all children in the country. The early childhood vaccines are given by GPs and the booster vaccines are provided by HSE School vaccination teams in most parts of the country, with a small number of regions providing these vaccines through the GP service.
Key vaccine uptake data:
- At 12 months of age 92% of Irish children are appropriately vaccinated. This means that they have had the recommended 3 doses of the 6 in 1 vaccine*
- At 24 months of age 96% of Irish children are appropriately vaccinated with the 6 in 1 vaccine. However some children are missing out on other vaccines at this age**
- At 24 months 93% of children have had the MMR vaccine, a marked improvement on previous years***
- At 4-5 years of age 90% of children received the recommend 4 in 1 vaccine and 89% received a dose of MMR****
The full report is available on the HPSC website.
Details on the childhood immunisation schedule are available at http://www.immunisation.ie/en/ChildhoodImmunisation/
Further information on European Immunisation Week is available on the World Health Organization European website.
*This vaccine protects against six diseases with the one combined vaccine; diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilius influenza (Hib) (causes meningitis and septicaemia), polio and hepatitis B. The same proportion of children received two doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (called PCV); this vaccine protects against 13 common strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae (bacteria that causes meningitis and septicaemia). A slightly smaller number, 91% of children, have received the two doses of MenC in the first year of life. Men C vaccine protects against meningococcal C disease.
**The uptake of the other recommended vaccines lags behind the uptake of the 6-in-1 vaccine. Only 86-91% of children have received the Hib, PCV and MenC vaccines after 12 months of age. These doses are important as the additional dose after 12 months of age is needed to prolong the immune response to the vaccine in these children. Without the additional dose these children are at increased risk of these diseases.
***There continues to be marked regional variation in uptake (range 90%-96%). As measles is highly infectious ensuring that all children get one dose of MMR at 12 months is extremely important.
****Two vaccines are recommended for children at the time of school entry- the booster dose of the ‘4-in-1’ vaccine (combined vaccine to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio) and a dose of MMR (usually 2nd dose) vaccine. The booster doses are given in the school setting (by HSE school immunisation teams) in most HSE regions, but in some HSE regions GPs administer the vaccine to the children.