Press Release

Martin launches Measles/MMR Vaccine Awareness Campaign

The Minister for Health and Children, MicheáI Martin T.D., today (20 June, 2000) launched a Measles/MMR Vaccine Awareness Campaign which aims to heighten public awareness about the importance of the MMR vaccine. Television and radio advertisements will be run for the next two weeks encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated against measles.

The Minister said that he had asked the Office for Health Gain to organise this awareness campaign as a matter of urgency because of the low level of uptake of the MMR vaccine. The Minister said “The uptake of primary immunisation in Ireland is well below that in other European countries and for MMR it is particularly unsatisfactory, with a national average of 77% at two years of age and rates as low as 68% in some areas. I regard this as a very serious situation.”

The Minister referred to the recent outbreak of measles where, since the beginning of the year, over 1,000 cases of measles have been reported, principally in North Dublin, and where two deaths have been associated with the outbreak. “The main reason why an outbreak such as the Dublin one can occur is the insufficient level of immunity in the population. In practical terms this must be tackled by improving the uptake of MMR vaccination to 95% or more” he said.

The campaign aims, in an innovative way, to inform parents of the seriousness of measles and that immunisation is the safest and most effective way to protect children against this and other diseases. The Minister said “One of the major challenges facing us today is how to ensure that people continue to appreciate the seriousness of many infectious diseases such as measles. At the same time parents must be given accurate information about the benefits of vaccination and about possible side-effects. The public must be reassured that modern vaccines are safe and are subject to rigorous testing before licensing and to ongoing surveillance once in use.”

The Minister concluded by encouraging parents to have their children immunised. “I would therefore like to take this opportunity to encourage parents who have not had their children fully immunised to contact their family doctor to arrange for the necessary immunisations, including the MMR vaccine, which are available free of charge. This will ensure that individual children and the population generally have maximum protection” he said.