Every dose counts – HSE marks European Immunisation Week 2023

  • Ensuring children are up to date with their vaccines will protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Information on vaccines recommended for you and your family is available here

Today (Monday 24th April), the HSE is marking the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European Immunisation Week 2023, which takes place each year during the last week of April. The theme for this year is “the big catch-up” and aims to improve vaccination uptake worldwide, especially in younger children who may have missed out on their routine vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unvaccinated children and young people are most at risk of disease

Many children worldwide are not up to date with their recommended vaccines, making them vulnerable to disease. In the WHO European Region alone, over 1.2 million children have missed out on an MMR vaccine.

Dr Lucy Jessop, HSE Immunisation Lead and Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the National Immunisation Office, outlines: “In Ireland children get two doses of the MMR vaccine so they can be fully protected against measles. However, uptake rates of the first and second doses of the MMR vaccine have dropped below the 95% rate recommended by the WHO to stop measles from spreading.

“Unvaccinated, young children are most at risk of infectious diseases like measles. But if your child has missed any of their recommended vaccines, it’s not too late to catch up and get protected.”

Young people who are eligible for the Laura Brennan HPV vaccine catch-up programme can get a free HPV vaccine if they missed out on the vaccine when it was offered to them in school. “The more young people vaccinated and women screened the better the spread of HPV infection can be controlled and the more HPV related cancers prevented,” says Dr Jessop.

The sooner you are vaccinated, the sooner you are protected

This European Immunisation Week, we are encouraging parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with their vaccines, including baby and school vaccines. The sooner they catch up and get vaccinated, the sooner they are protected.

“Timing matters, so it is important to get vaccinated on time and catch up on any missed doses as soon as possible so your family is protected. We need to act now to catch up on the children who missed out on their vaccines during the pandemic so we can restore immunisation levels to pre-pandemic levels and keep everyone safe,” adds Dr Jessop.

Vaccines save lives – 75 years of the WHO

On the 75th anniversary of the WHO this European Immunisation Week, we remember how vaccines have been one of the most cost-effective health interventions available, saving millions of people from illness, disability and death each year.

Reflecting on 75 years of the WHO, Dr Éamonn O’Moore Director of National Health Protection, National Health Protection Service of Ireland adds: “We have seen huge milestones in public health and wellbeing over the years thanks to vaccination. The WHO European Region has been free of endemic polio since 2002. The last reported case of polio in Ireland was in 1984.

“In 2000 Europe had over 400,000 cases of tetanus but in 2021 only 43 cases were reported. In Ireland we introduced the tetanus vaccine during the 1940s and saw the last death from tetanus reported in 1967.”

On staying vigilant in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases, Dr O’Moore, says: “Vaccines have and continue to play a very important role in protecting and saving lives in Ireland and worldwide. But it is important to remember that though the vaccination programmes have been so successful, many of the diseases, with the exception of smallpox, have not entirely gone away. Vaccination remains as important as ever to protect children.”

For information about the vaccines recommended for you and your family, talk to your local healthcare provider or visit www.immunisation.ie

Last updated on: 24 / 04 / 2023