Press Release

Minister Martin announces changes to Childhood Immunisation Programme

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, T.D., wishes to announce the introduction of Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into the childhood immunisation programme. The introduction of this vaccine is based on the expert advice of the Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College Of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) which has recommended that Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) be replaced by Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) in both the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme and the booster programme.

The main advantages of IPV vaccine are its consistent immunogenicity and safety.

The RCPI has advised that IPV can be given in combination with other routinely recommended childhood vaccines e.g. DTaP (Diptheria, Tetanus and acellular Pertusssis) and Hib (Haemophilus Influenza Type B). Children who have received one or more doses of OPV may be given IPV to complete the series.

In conjunction with the introduction of IPV into the childhood immunisation schedule the RCPI has also recommended that combination vaccines be used, when possible, as part of this schedule. The advantage of this change is the reduction in the number of injections which children will receive.

A five component vaccine (DTaP, IPV and Hib.) will therefore be incorporated into the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme at 2, 4 and 6 months thus reducing by one the number of injections required and dispensing with the orally administered polio vaccine. Meningococcal C vaccine will continue to be administered by a separate injection at 2, 4 and 6 months. The initial MMR vaccine will continue to be administered at 15 months. A four component vaccine (DTaP and IPV) will be used in the booster schedule which is administered at 4 to 5 years while the MMR booster will continue to be administered by a separate injection at this time.

It is anticipated that these vaccines will be introduced from 16 July 2001 following the completion of a training and information programme for general practitioners, community care personnel and other health professionals involved in the immunisation programme. This programme is being organised and coordinated by health boards in conjunction with the Office for Health Gain.

All parents are urged 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.