Children at risk as figures show decline in vaccine rates

National uptake for the Tdap and MenC vaccines for teens fell by 3% in 2017

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee says vaccination is important for “herd immunity” to protect those who have not been vaccinated.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee says vaccination is important for “herd immunity” to protect those who have not been vaccinated.

 

The national uptake for the meningitis vaccine and vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough fell last year placing higher numbers of children at risk of contracting the diseases.

The uptake for the Tdap (tetanus, low-dose diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine among 11-14 year olds fell by 3 per cent in the 2016-2017 academic year to 85.5 per cent.

The lowest uptake in the State was among young teenagers living in the Dublin North, Dublin North West, Dublin North Central and Dublin South West areas. There was also a relatively lower uptake in Galway and Kerry while the highest uptake was in Tipperary South.

The Tdap vaccine was introduced to schools on a phased basis from September 2011 and extended to all areas from September 2012. It is offered to students in first year of secondary school and their age equivalents in special school and home schooling programmes.

Similarly, the national uptake for the MenC (meningococcal group C) vaccine also fell by three per cent to 83.9 per cent last year. The lowest uptake was in Dublin North, Dublin North West, Dublin North Central, Dublin West and Dublin South West.

Booster vaccine

The MenC vaccination along with a booster vaccine is recommended to children of 12-13 years and was introduced to schools in September 2014.

Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee Professor Karina Butler expressed concern at the drop in the rate of vaccinations against meningitis and whooping cough among school children, saying that vaccination was important for “herd immunity” to protect those who have not been vaccinated.

Prof Butler told Newstalk Breakfast the uptake of the HPV vaccine had improved but that the number of school girls receiving the vaccination still needed to rise.

Uptake of the HPV vaccine increased from 50 to 61 per cent in 2017 following a large drop in the numbers of girls availing of it. In the 2014/15 school year 87 per cent of girls aged 12 to 13 received the vaccine but this fell sharply to 50 per cent in 2016.

The vaccine protects against several strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes seven out of 10 types of cervical cancer.

Prof Butler said a lot of “good information” was available to the public which explains the benefits of vaccination for children and teenagers and said other countries had seen dramatic health results because of the HPV vaccine.

“That message is getting out there. People are responding, but not in as high numbers as we want.”