More than 10,000 children are waiting for the BCG vaccine to protect them from tuberculosis.
Public health doctors in the Galway have blamed staffing problems for leaving 900 children in the county waiting for the vaccine, which should be given shortly after birth by injecting the baby's upper arm.
The highest waiting lists are in Galway and Cork but some reports have also indicated babies in some Dublin maternity hospitals are affected by the delay. The children are on the waiting lists to receive vaccine at the request of their parents.
A spokesperson for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Galway said yesterday it intended to implement the recommended childhood schedule of immunisations.
"To achieve the targets set we plan to prioritise those children in the special-risk groups with other children being vaccinated thereafter."
The spokesperson added: "We are expected to live within our staffing complement and allocated resources and the community medical department is currently assessing its workload so as to utilise their resources as best as possible."
An HSE spokesperson in Cork, where over 9,000 children have to receive the vaccine, said: "The backlog is not because of lack of staff but rather because the BCG vaccine has not been routinely administered to newborns in Cork. It was administered on request. The routine administration to newborns will commence this autumn. In the interim, additional clinics continue to run to deal with the backlog," she added.
In Cork, for a number of years, the BCG vaccine has been offered to newborns who were at risk of developing TB -- that is babies whose parents or siblings have a history of TB, whose parents work in a healthcare setting with patients affected by TB, or whose parents come from countries where there is a high incidence of TB. It also included children intending to visit high-incidence countries for more than one month. BCG vaccine is also given to the child contacts of confirmed TB cases.
She added: "Due to the increase in demand for BCG vaccination in 2007, the HSE South, as an interim measure, ran a number of additional clinics during the summer period.
"In parallel with this interim measure, plans have been put in place in relation to the commencement of offering routine neonatal BCG vaccinations in conjunction with Cork University Maternity Hospital."
An HSE spokesman in Dublin said delays were confined to the west and south of the country.
He said there was a Europe-wide shortage or non-availability of the vaccine created as a result of licensing problems at a laboratory.
The HSE resumed the neo-natal BCG vaccination programme from April 1, when availability resumed.