Importance of immunisation from pre-birth to teenage years highlighted

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Thursday, April 28th, 2016
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The Public Health Agency (PHA) is marking European Immunisation Week (24th – 30th April 2016) by celebrating the excellent childhood immunisation uptake levels being achieved in Northern Ireland, but also reminding parents of the importance of immunisation. phaMany childhood diseases which were common in Northern Ireland prior to the introduction of vaccination have been dramatically reduced or have disappeared altogether, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles and several types of meningitis. In Northern Ireland, thousands of cases of serious illness and many deaths are avoided each year thanks to a highly successful immunisation programme, but there is still a small percentage of children who do not receive full protection. The PHA wishes to promote the core message that immunisation of every child is vital to help prevent diseases and protect life. Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said, “Even before birth we can help protect our children – the whooping cough vaccine offered to pregnant women provides a high level of protection for your newborn baby in their first weeks of life by allowing antibodies to pass from pregnant mum before birth. “The uptake of this vaccine has so far has been lower than expected at around 60%, but by getting vaccinated the baby’s risk of being infected is reduced by over 90%, so we want mums-to-be to avail of it. “The best time to get the vaccine is between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, but if a woman misses out during this time, she can still get it after 32 weeks. The vaccine is given at your GP’s surgery – make sure you make an appointment to get it.”
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Mid April 2016The PHA is also highlighting to parents the importance of children getting their immunisations on time and of ensuring they receive all the vaccines they are due. Dr Jessop continued, “Childhood immunisation in Northern Ireland has uptake rates of over 98% for the primary vaccines by two years of age and by five years of age around 97% of children have had one dose of MMR and 93% have had the recommended two doses, which is an excellent achievement. “However, I would urge the small remainder of parents whose children have not yet received the full level of protection against serious diseases, to do so. Vaccination is very quick to do, but the benefits are massive for a child’s health and wellbeing.” For more information on the MenACWY vaccination programme visit www.pha.site/MenACWY

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