More vaccines recommended for children

 

Minister for Health Mary Harney has today unveiled new immunisation guidelines at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) that recommend further vaccines for children.

The guidelines, published by the RCPI’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), contain a number of recommendations and update the last guidelines published in 2002.

Among its recommendations, the committee has added two vaccines to the routine childhood immunisation schedule - Hepatitis B vaccine (Hep B) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, with a catch-up programme for children under two.

The NIAC has also advised that all women of child-bearing age without a history of chicken pox infection have their immunity checked, and recommends that those aged 50 years or older have an annual influenza vaccination.

The RCPI found that since the last immunisation guidelines in 2002 there has been an improvement in the uptake of childhood vaccines at 24 months, from 80 per cent to 90 per cent in 2006.

There was an improvement for the MMR vaccine uptake, from 70 per cent to 85 per cent over the same period.

Speaking today, Ms Harney noted that immunisation against infectious disease has saved more lives than any other public health intervention, apart from providing clean water.

She continued: "I would like to take this opportunity to once again urge all parents to have their children immunised against the diseases covered by the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme in order to ensure that both their children and the population generally have maximum protection against the diseases concerned."

In a statement, Prof Brian Keogh, chairman of the NIAC, said: “Immunisation protects individuals and communities from specific infectious diseases which can sometimes cause serious illness, even death.

“I particularly welcome the improvement for MMR vaccine uptake, from 70 per cent to 85 per cent, and I hope that it will soon reach our target of 95 per cent.”

The immunisation guidelines will be available on the RCPI website and will be distributed to hospitals, primary care centres, departments of public health, GPs, and other health professionals.