Monday 20 May 2019

Harris brands sending unvaccinated children to schools as 'irresponsible'

Unvaccinated children have been banned from all public spaces in a New York county as the state battles its largest measles outbreak in decades. (stock picture)
Unvaccinated children have been banned from all public spaces in a New York county as the state battles its largest measles outbreak in decades. (stock picture)

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has said it's "irresponsible" to send unvaccinated children to school and that he is seeking the advice of the attorney general on the issue of a mandatory programme of immunisation.

Mr Harris also said it's time politicians were "called out" on whether or not they support vaccination programmes.

He intends to write to all TDs and Senators next week seeking a public commitment that they support childhood vaccinations.

It comes amid growing rates of diseases like measles around the world and British health secretary Matt Hancock saying he wouldn't rule out excluding children who haven't had the MMR injection from schools.

Mr Harris previously said he "instinctively" agrees with the suggestion that unvaccinated children should be excluded form schools or creches.

This has happened in New York and Italy.

At the opening of a new primary care centre on Dublin's northside, Mr Harris was about mandatory vaccination programmes.

He said he has written to attorney general Séamus Wolfe to formally seek his legal advice on the issue of vaccination.

"We obviously have a written constitution and we need to take legal advice in relation what we can an can’t do legislatively in this country."

Mr Harris added that no decision has been made and he hasn't consulted his government colleagues on the matter.

He said: "I do feel very strongly about it.

"I feel there is something irresponsible - that is against the public good - sending an unvaccinated child into a school or into a crèche or into a public place where they could actually make other children sick".

He said it was a particular risk to babies who might be too young to get vaccinated.

He said the Department of Health is examining mandatory vaccinations and the systems in place in other countries.

Mr Harris also said: "We need to form an alliance of healthcare professionals and policy makers to push back against the absolute nonsense that is put out by some, often on social media in relation to vaccination. "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: "It’s time we actually called out our politicians on this question.

"I want to know does every politician in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann support the childhood immunisation programme and support the HPV vaccine."

Mr Harris claimed that there has been "populist nonsense" on vaccines from some Oireachtas members.

He will write to all TDs and Senators next week to ask them to publically commit to supporting childhood immunisation and the HPV vaccine for girls and boys.

He said he recently attended the funeral of a woman who died from cervical cancer,  Laura Brennan, and the HPV vaccine wasn't available when she was in school.

Mr Harris said that if it had been, "Laura might have been with us today."

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