Press Release

Statement on use of polio vaccine after expiry date

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, T.D., has learned that oral polio vaccine from some of the batches which were the subject of his announcement on 19 December last appears to have been administered after the expiry date.

This information has come to light as a result of the examination of immunisation records by GP’s and health boards in recent weeks.

The Minister has sought advice from the Irish Medicines Board and the Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He also met with the IMB on 17 January to discuss this and other issues. The Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland met to consider the issue on 18 January and it is due to meet with the Department’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer on Monday 22 January. The preliminary advice received is that the effectiveness of the vaccine is reduced if it is administered after its expiry date. Some children will require further doses of vaccine as a result.

The Minister has also asked all health boards to urgently conduct a detailed examination of their records in order to establish the extent to which the said polio vaccine was used beyond its expiry date. Following this the parents of any children involved will be contacted via the health boards and GPs.

At the request of the Minister, the Chief Executive Officers of the health boards are establishing a National Immunisation Steering Committee which will be addressing a range of issues to do with the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme as a whole. 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.