Press Release

Martin urges parents to avail of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Immunisation for their children

Mr Micheál Martin, T.D., Minister for Health and Children is concerned about the unsatisfactory primary immunisation uptake rates and in particular MMR because of the resulting risk of unimmunised children contracting the infections concerned. The outbreak of measles in 2000, which caused 3 deaths and over 1,500 cases, is evidence of what can happen when an insufficient proportion of the population has been immunised.

The Minister urges all parents to have their children immunised against the diseases covered by the childhood immunisation programme, which includes MMR, in order to ensure that both their children and the population generally have maximum protection against the diseases concerned. General Practitioners are aware of the contraindications to the recommended childhood immunisations and parents should discuss any concerns they may have with their General Practitioners before making a decision about their child´s immunisation.

The National Immunisation Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland recommends that MMR vaccine be administered at 15 months with a booster dose administered at 4-5 years of age. The use of a second dose of MMR vaccine is considered to improve the control of the diseases and some countries have now managed to interrupt the transmission of the diseases by achieving high vaccination coverage for both doses.

The World Health Organisation has indicated that observations made regarding the onset of autism following administration of MMR vaccine do not meet the scientific criteria required to suggest that the vaccine is the cause. It has also indicated that there has been no new scientific evidence that would suggest impaired safety of MMR. The WHO strongly endorses the use of MMR vaccine on the grounds of its convincing record of safety and efficacy. This view is supported by the Irish Medicines Board and by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI).

The Joint Committee on Health and Children in its report on Childhood Immunisation which was published in July 2001 concluded that there is no evidence of a proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism and that there is no evidence to show that the separate vaccines are any safer than the combined MMR vaccine.

The Chief Executive Officers of the health boards established a National Immunisation Steering Committee to address a wide range of issues relating to the childhood and other immunisation programmes including the identification of issues which are hampering the achievement of uptake targets. The report of the Committee is at final draft stage and is expected to be submitted to the Department shortly.

The Minister once again urges all parents to have their children immunised against these potentially serious diseases.