Press Release

Minister outlines progress in tracing recipients of out of date polio vaccine

Mr Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today (4 July 2001) outlined the progress he has made in tracing children who received an out of date polio vaccine.

“In the case of all boards, the names of children identified as having received out of date vaccine have been forwarded to the relevant GP with a view to contacting the parents regarding re-vaccination. Health Boards have requested GPs to submit details of the numbers of children re-vaccinated to the relevant boards,” said the Minister.

When this issue came to light, health boards were requested to conduct a detailed examination of records in order to establish the extent to which the administration of oral polio vaccine after its expiry date had occurred in the period January 1998 to December 2000.

The Minister requested expert advice in relation to the safety and efficacy aspects of this issue from the Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. The Committee has advised that the efficacy of the vaccine is reduced if it is administered more than one month after the expiry date and that the vaccination should therefore be repeated in such cases.

The information provided to date suggests that over 11,000 doses were administered out of date and that of this quantity over 3,500 doses were administered more than one month after their expiry date. This is reduced from an earlier figure of over 5,000 doses due to ongoing validation of records by health boards. It should, however, be noted that in any one-year period some 200,000 doses of oral polio vaccine are administered to approximately 100,000 children as part of the primary and booster childhood immunisation programmes.

The following sets out the number of doses of oral polio vaccine, based on the latest information obtained from the health boards, which were administered after the expiry date:

Health Board No of doses < 1 month after expiry date No of doses > 1 month after expiry date Total
Eastern Regional Health Authority 887 699 1,586
Midland Health Board 748 724 1,472
Mid-Western Health Board 991 722 1,713
North Eastern Health Board 101 52 153
North Western Health Board 139 161 300
South Eastern Health Board 1294 610 1,904
Southern Health Board 2,680 209 2,889
Western Health Board 549 485 1,034
TOTAL 7,389 3,662 11,051


 The Minister has asked health boards to examine systems and procedures currently in place, identify shortcomings where these exist and put in place revised systems/procedures as a matter of urgency.

Health boards have also been asked to take appropriate measures in respect of vaccines administered to ensure the validation of all key information i.e. patient name, batch number and expiry date by cross reference to registration and supply databases.

In addition, the Chief Executive Officers of the health boards have established a National Immunisation Steering Committee, which is addressing a wide range of issues relating to the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme. This will include consideration of the protocols for administration of vaccines, whether new mechanisms need to be developed to guard against possible use of vaccine which has passed its expiry date and to ensure that vaccines are administered in accordance with best practice.