Friday 23 August 2019

Minister in EU talks to 'cut vaccine hesitancy'

Health Minister Simon Harris
Health Minister Simon Harris
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The mandatory vaccination of children against diseases like measles and mumps will be discussed by Health Minister Simon Harris and his EU counterparts in Bucharest, Romania, this week.

He is to propose the setting up of an alliance of health experts, patient advocates and policy makers as the next step to counter falling vaccination rates in various countries.

The need to improve uptake of vaccines, including the MMR jab, at a time of growing outbreaks of the disease will be discussed at the scheduled meeting of health ministers in the EU, as well as the reasons why some countries have decided to make vaccination mandatory.

Last week, Mr Harris said he would explore the introduction of mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases here - making it a condition of school or crèche entry.

But constitutional rights to bodily integrity are likely to be invoked if this is introduced.

Uptake of the MMR vaccine in Ireland is at 92pc.

However, in the first nine weeks of 2019 there have been 451 notified cases of mumps, compared to 60 for the same period in 2018. Last year, a total of 575 cases were notified.

Speaking in advance of the meeting, he said: "I will again raise how EU health ministers can work together to improve vaccination rates.

"Some have taken bold steps and introduced mandatory vaccination. I have already laid out my position on that, but I want to discuss steps we can take to improve vaccination rates before such decisions are taken. There is a body of work to be done here to reduce vaccine hesitancy, to counter the myths spread online about vaccination.

"We have seen in recent days the extent of misinformation that still exists in Ireland and the reaction of some when you challenge their theories. So, education is key and that stretches to healthcare professionals, parents, teachers."

Irish Independent

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