Life-saving vaccine for babies rolled out after GPs agree fee
GPs say babies' lives will be saved following the roll-out of the vaccine to protect thousands from meningitis B from next week.
The jab, along with the vaccine to prevent the rotavirus, will begin to be administered for free from December 1 after an agreement on fees with doctors was reached.
The vaccines will be free to all babies born since October 1 this year, but other parents will have to pay around €600 for it.
The meningitis B vaccine will come as a relief to many parents whose child qualifies because of the swiftness with which the disease strikes and its potentially deadly consequences.
The rotavirus, which is a common cause of stomach illness, causes around 1,000 admissions to hospital a year.
Under the deal GPs will get an extra €80 for administering the vaccine along with the other range of jabs that infants currently get. It will bring their fee up to €380.
Health Minister Simon Harris said : "I am very pleased that I am in a position to add meningitis B and rotavirus, which causes stomach illness, to the primary childhood immunisation programme. This will make further improvements to public health."
Ireland has the highest rate of invasive meningococcal disease in Europe and Men B is the major cause of these infections, which can cause severe illness or death.
Rotavirus disease is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children and results in 1,000 hospital admissions each year. Both vaccines are widely used internationally and have a proven effectiveness.
All babies born on or after October 1 will get the vaccines for meningococcal B (Men B) and rotavirus in addition to the other childhood vaccines currently given.
The first doses of these vaccines are given at two months of age, which means that the first babies are due to begin getting these vaccines from the start of December.
Dr Padraig McGarry, GP spokesman, said the introduction of these vaccines was an important public health policy and it was critical that it was resourced appropriately.
"This agreement is good for newborns and their parents, it will improve health outcomes for children and will ensure that the vaccines continue to be delivered in general practice where the work of GPs has ensured high uptake rates," he said.
The move was also welcomed by the National Association of General Practitioners and the Irish College of General Practitioners.