This week we are celebrating World Health Organization’s (WHO) European Immunisation Week. European Immunisation Week (EIW) takes places every April to raise awareness of the importance of vaccines for everyone’s health and wellbeing.
This year’s theme for EIW is “The Big Catch-Up”. It reminds us how important it is for children and young people to get vaccinated on time and catch up on any vaccines they may have missed out on due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We spoke with our Director Dr Lucy Jessop on why we need to act now to make sure children and young people get the vaccines recommended for them, and why she is personally passionate about vaccination.
Measles cases are rising right now in Europe. How can we protect children from measles?
Measles spreads very easily and it can be very serious, especially in younger children. Getting the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent it and protect your child.
In Ireland, children get two doses of the MMR vaccine so they can be fully protected against measles.
Children get the first dose of the vaccine when they are 12 months old from their GP. They get the booster dose then when they are in Junior Infants from the HSE school vaccination teams (In Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim this vaccine is given in GP practices).
If your child has missed out on MMR vaccines, they can still get vaccinated. Learn more about the MMR vaccine for your child.
Why is it especially important now that children catch up on their MMR vaccines?
We know that many children right now are not up to date with their MMR vaccines. Over 1.2 million children in the WHO European Region alone have missed out on an MMR vaccine.
Here in Ireland, vaccine uptake rates of the first and second doses have dropped below the 95% rate that is recommended by the WHO to stop measles from spreading.
We need to act now to prevent the very real risk of measles outbreaks from happening. The last big measles outbreak in Ireland happened in 2000 when we had over 1,600 cases. 350 children were hospitalised with measles and sadly, three children died.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect children and stop measles from spreading.
The Laura Brennan HPV vaccine catch-up programme offers people who missed out on a HPV vaccine a chance to get protected. Who can get a free HPV vaccine through the programme?
Eligible people who missed out on a HPV vaccine can get a free HPV vaccine through the catch-up programme.
- females in 2nd to 6th year of secondary school
- females under the age of 25
- males in 2nd to 4th year of secondary school
- males in 5th year who skipped Transition Year
If you are eligible for the programme, you can book a HPV catch-up appointment online or your child will be vaccinated through their school by the school vaccination team.
Why is it that important young people get the HPV vaccine?
HPV is a very common, and sometimes very serious virus. In Ireland it is the cause of 406 cancers in men and women each year. The vaccine protects against almost all cases of cervical cancers and 9 out of 10 cancers of the anus. It gives young people the best protection from HPV and the cancers it causes.
The more young people who get vaccinated and women who get routinely screened for cervical cancers, the better we can control the spread of HPV infection.
What advice would you give to people who are considering getting vaccinated?
It’s normal to have questions about vaccines for yourself or your children. We encourage everyone to talk with their healthcare provider – they are there to help.
This European Immunisation Week we also want to encourage health and care professionals to have a vaccination conversation with their patients – talk to them about the vaccines recommended for them and their families so they can make an informed decision for their family.
This year marks 75 years of the World Health Organization (WHO). What do you think have been some important public health milestones during the years for immunisation globally?
Vaccines save millions of lives each year.
The very first vaccine introduced in Ireland was the smallpox vaccine in 1863. Less than a century later, the WHO declared the world free of smallpox thanks to vaccination.
Since 2002 the WHO European Region has been free of endemic polio and in Ireland, we saw the last reported case of polio in 1984.
Vaccines have been so important in helping us achieve longer, healthier lives for everyone. But we must not forget that many of the diseases we vaccinate against today have not entirely gone away.
Vaccination is one of the best ways you can protect yourself, your children and future generations from infectious diseases.
Why is vaccination important to you personally?
As a current Public Health doctor, ex-paediatrician and mother, I believe that vaccines are the best gift we can give our children – and even better that the health service gives them to us for free which is something we may take for granted. People in many other countries in Europe and worldwide are not so fortunate.
I still remember the extreme care of a father for his son aged about 10 who had SSPE, a rare complication of measles. They were from Eastern Europe originally so they may not have been able to get their son vaccinated. Their son had contracted measles some years before I met them. He was very slowly dying from SSPE. There is no cure.
Seeing children lose their lives to potentially preventable infectious disease and the devastation that the death of a child leaves on the families left behind made me want to dedicate my medical career to make trying to make sure vaccine rates are as high as possible so this would not happen needlessly to other families.
If you want to learn more, you can
Register for our Lunch and Learn webinar taking place Tuesday 25th April for health and care professionals on addressing vaccine hesitancy and communicating about vaccines.
Get and share the vaccine facts. Download our 5 Facts About Vaccines poster.
If you want to learn more about vaccines in Ireland you can read more about the History of Vaccines in Ireland
Our website is part of the Vaccine Safety Net, a global network of websites accredited by the World Health Organization that provide reliable information on vaccine safety.
Visit "WHO Vaccine Safety" for additional information
Visit "WHO EIW Materials" for additional information
It is important to keep up to date with the latest information which is available from this website
We will be sharing information this week on - Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube using the hashtags #EveryDoseCounts #HaveAVaccinationConversation. Come join the conversation!
This page was added on 21 April 2023