Thursday 20 June 2019

Government considering mandatory vaccination for children

Health Minister Simon Harris said it was ‘irresponsible’ and against the public good to send a child that is not vaccinated to school.

Vaccination rates are dropping (David Jones/PA)
Vaccination rates are dropping (David Jones/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

The Government is set to consider making vaccination for children mandatory.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he had written to the Attorney General Seamus Wolfe to seek his legal advice in relation to the issue of vaccination.

It comes as new figures from Unicef showed that the number of measles cases in Ireland increased by more than 200% in the space of a year.

The increase is part of a worldwide trend of rising cases of the disease being attributed to scaremongering and misinformation.

Mr Harris said: “I feel there’s something irresponsible, and that is against the public good, sending an unvaccinated child into to a school or into a creche or into a public place where they can make other children sick.

“Particularly young babies, who might be too young to actually get vaccinated, could end up with a very significant disease.”

He added: “I understand why mandatory vaccination is a very interesting topic and it is one we’re looking at.”

The minister made the comments on Friday at the official opening of Summerhill primary care centre in Dublin’s north inner city.

ipanews_610c9f82-f0ee-4256-b5ef-10e33d28b20e_embedded2185244
Health Minister Simon Harris and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe at the official opening of the Summerhill primary care centre in Dublin’s north inner city on Friday (Michelle Devane/PA Wire)

Mr Harris said he had asked officials at the Department of Health to examine what other countries had done about vaccination.

He said healthcare professionals and policy makers needed to “push back against the absolute nonsense” that is being disseminated by anti-vaxxers on social media.

“Vaccinations work but we’re seeing the impact of the scaremongering, in terms of the rates, not just in this country but in international reports as well,” he said.

Unicef’s most recent report shows that increasing numbers of youngsters around the world are being left unprotected against measles, which can cause disability and death.

It found that an estimated 169 million children around the world missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017 – an average of 21.1 million a year.

Mr Harris criticised politicians who have raised concerns about the MMR and HPV vaccines.

“I want to know does every politician in Dail Eireann and Seanad Eireann support the childhood immunisation programme and support the HPV vaccine,” he said.

He added: “We have seen populist nonsense from some members of the Oireachtas.

“Next week I intend to write to every member of the Oireachtas and I intend to ask them to publicly commit to supporting childhood immunisation vaccination and to supporting the HPV vaccine and boys and girls.”

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section