Vaccines ‘still the first line of defence against killer diseases’

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Thursday, May 2nd, 2019
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Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the Public Health Agency (PHA) has reminded everyone that vaccines work by protecting society against many lethal diseases, but warns that we cannot become complacent.

“Many childhood diseases that were common in the UK prior to the introduction of vaccination have been dramatically reduced or have disappeared altogether.

 

 

“However, once a disease fades from prominence, it is easy to forget how serious they could be. Unfortunately, unless vaccine uptake remains high in Northern Ireland, many of these deadly diseases will return from parts of the world where they still occur,” said Dr Johnston.

“Protection against polio, along with other ‘diseases of the past’ such as diphtheria and tetanus, remain part of the childhood vaccination programme today, and thankfully the incidence of these three infections has fallen dramatically, with no cases in Northern Ireland in recent times.

“The virtual eradication of these deadly illnesses here, as well as a range of others, is thanks to the fact that we are lucky to have a free, comprehensive vaccination programme in place for our new born babies, right up to 70+ year olds.

 

 

She continued, “The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination is a key story. From the 1940s onwards, annual notifications of measles varied between 160,000 and 800,000, with around 100 deaths from acute measles each year in the UK.

“Although a measles vaccine was first introduced in 1968, uptake was low, meaning that there was still a high prevalence through the 1970s and 80s, and children still died.

“The MMR vaccine was launched in 1988 when there were still over 80,000 annual notifications of measles across the UK. The year after the vaccine was introduced, the figure dropped to just over 25,000, and has continued to fall.

 

 

“Thanks to the high proportion of people in Northern Ireland making the positive decision to get the MMR vaccine over the past decades, cases of these three illnesses here have fallen significantly.

“However, these diseases have not gone away and some countries are experiencing outbreaks of measles so we cannot afford to become complacent. Ensuring your children have had two doses of MMR vaccine will give them the best protection here and when travelling abroad,” she added.

For more information see pha.site/immunisation-vaccinations-nidirect

 

 

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