Press Release

Launch of “Be Wise – Immunise”

Mr. Tim O’Malley, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, today (7th December 2004 launched the video Be Wise – Immunise.  This video has been produced by the Mid-Western Health Board on behalf of the Health Boards Executive, as one method of providing information to parents about immunisation, so that more children can be protected against infectious disease.

Immunisation against infectious disease has saved more lives than any other public health intervention, apart from providing clean water.  Where immunisation programmes are in operation and uptake of immunisation is high, many infectious diseases are now rare.

The recommended childhood immunisation schedule in this country contains immunisations against ten infectious diseases: Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping cough, Polio, Haemophilus Influenzae B disease, Meningococcal C disease, Measles, Mumps and Rubella.

Immunisation against Tuberculosis, Diphtheria and Tetanus was available in the first half of the 20th Century, with immunisations against Whooping Cough and Polio added in the 1950’s.  Immunisation against Rubella was introduced in the 1970’s for girls only, and during the 1980’s, immunisation against Measles, Mumps and Rubella was added to the early childhood immunisation schedule.  The two most recent immunisations to be added to the childhood immunisation schedule in this country were immunisation against Haemophilus Influenzae B disease in 1992, and immunisation against Meningococcal C disease in 2000.

Following introduction of these immunisations, incidence of infection, and deaths due to these diseases, has fallen dramatically.

In order to eliminate these infectious diseases entirely, uptake of immunisations of 95% or greater is required.  When immunisation uptake rates are below 95%, outbreaks of infectious disease will continue to occur, and some children will suffer complications or die as a result.

Unfortunately, immunisation uptake in this country has never achieved the target of 95%.  We can all recall the outbreak of measles in this country in 2000, when over 1,600 children in Dublin were ill, 16 were so ill they needed to be treated in Intensive Care Units, and 3 children died.  At that time, uptake of MMR vaccine had fallen below 80%.

Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting children against certain diseases.  The Minister encouraged parents to have their children immunised against the diseases covered by the childhood immunisation programme in order to ensure that both their children and the population generally have maximum protection against the diseases concerned.