Press Release

Martin Urges Parents to have Children Vaccinated against Measles

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, T.D., today strongly urged all parents to ensure that their children are immunised against measles, in the light of the outbreak of this disease in the Dublin area this year.

Since the beginning of the year there has been a significant rise in the incidence of measles in North Dublin. Up to 31 March there have been 315 cases of measles in the Eastern Regional Health Authority’s area of responsibility, compared to 27 cases in the region in the same period in 1999. Almost 80% of the cases occurring since the beginning of the year have been in the North of Dublin City and in the North County area.

“The situation is a serious cause for concern and I would therefore strongly urge parents, not only in Dublin but in all areas of the country, to ensure that their children receive the MMR vaccine, which is available free of charge from their family doctor. This will ensure that individual children and the population generally have maximum protection against measles, mumps and rubella”, the Minister said.

The Minister added that he was pleased to note that the Eastern Regional Health Authority has adapted a range of measures in order to control the spread of the measles outbreak. A programme of MMR booster immunisations for the primary school population in the region is being initiated, concentrating first on schools where cases of measles have occurred. Other measures include the alerting of general practitioners to the situation and stressing to them the importance of children being offered measles immunisation; the promulgation of information through the media about the risks associated with measles infection and the advisability of immunisation; communication with parents whose children are not recorded as having received MMR vaccination and alerting pre-school facilities to the occurrence of the outbreak. The situation is being monitored by the Eastern Regional Health Authority on an ongoing basis.

While the current outbreak has so far been concentrated in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area, since MMR uptake in all health board regions is below 95%, there is a risk that outbreaks will occur elsewhere also. The Minister stressed that parents in all parts of the country should act now to make sure that their children receive their MMR and other childhood immunisations. “We have perhaps forgotten how serious many childhood illnesses can be. The availability of safe and effective vaccines means that our children can be protected against such illnesses and I would ask all parents to arrange to have their children vaccinated, if they have not already done so,” he said.

With regard to concerns which some parents may have about vaccine safety, the Minister stressed that the vaccines used in the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme are safe and effective. They are subject to rigorous testing before being licensed for use and there is ongoing monitoring after licensing. “My Department has reviewed the available evidence concerning the MMR vaccine and is satisfied that this vaccine is very safe and effective. There is no evidence to support any link between the MMR vaccine and the subsequent development either of chronic inflammatory bowel disease or of autism and recently published studies in the UK and Europe have further confirmed this. Neither is there evidence that giving each of the component vaccines separately has any greater benefit than the combined vaccine,” the Minister said.