A NATIONWIDE survey has revealed that the low take up of the MMR and 4-in-1 vaccines is potentially compromising the health of hundreds of schoolchildren across North Cork.
The survey, conducted by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), was the first of its kind ever to be undertaken across national schools in Ireland.
It showed that of the 1,422 children in the region eligible for the vaccinations, only 375 (26.4%) have had the 4-in-1 and 378 (26.6%) have been given the MMR jab.
The North Cork figures fall well below the national averages of 86.2% for the 4-in-1 and 83.7% for the MMR.
This is despite the fact that the DTaP-Ipv (4-in-1) jab significantly reduces the risk of a child developing diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. The MMR vaccine has also been shown to protect children against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
The next lowest rate of compliance is in the Dublin North West region at 75.7% for the 4in-1 jab and 74.5% for the MMR - both take-up levels almost three times higher than those in North Cork.
In Cork City the compliance level was 87% for the 4-in-1 and 85.7% for the MMR. The figures for West Cork stood at 76.4% for the 4-in-1 and 75.9% for the MMR jab.
The overall figures were based on the success to date of the HSE's school immunisation programme which took place over the 2011-12 academic year. It saw a total of 50,210 children within relevant are group targeted for the vaccines.
Under the system, parents were asked to allow their children to receive the shots through their GPs in areas where the service could not be provided through schools.
Fermoy based GP Dr Joe Keane said he was very surprised at the huge difference in the tale for the vaccines across North Cork as compared to the rest of the country.
"To be honest, I have no idea why this might be the case," said Dr Keane.
He said that while a lot has been said and written about the possible side affects of immunisations, notably links to autism from the MMR jab, there is no proven link. Indeed, independent medical experts have stressed that the MMR vaccine is totally safe.
In 2010 the British Medical Association branded research that alleged links to autism, which led some parents to refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated, as "dishonest". The following year the British Medical Journal described the study as fraudulent.
"Evidence clearly shows the need for these vaccines. My advice to any parents would be to allow their children to be vaccinated," said Dr Keane.