MMR confidence high in Tyrone

MMR vaccine
MMR vaccine

Confidence in parents whose babies are scheduled to have their first dose of the MMR vaccine is reasonably high in Tyrone, with 97.5 coming forward for immunisation.

However this figure drops to 92.9 per cent, roughly around the Northern Ireland average, for the uptake of the MMR2 vaccine which is given as a pre-school booster.

The highest uptake for MMR1 is the Western Trust area with 98.4 per cent and 96.2 per cent for MMR2.

A dose of MMR vaccine is usually given at 12-13 months with a second dose administered before the child starts school.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is marking European Immunisation Week by celebrating the excellent childhood immunisation uptake levels being achieved in Northern Ireland, which are well above the UK average.

Many childhood diseases which were common prior to the introduction of vaccination have been dramatically reduced or have disappeared altogether, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles and several types of meningitis.

This week, the PHA is highlighting to parents the importance of children getting their immunisations on time and of ensuring they receive all the vaccines they are due.

Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said in Northern Ireland, thousands of cases of serious illness and many deaths are avoided each year thanks to a highly successful immunisation programme, but there is still a small percentage of children who do not receive full protection.

“As we approach the time of year when many children are travelling on school trips and family holidays, we are again urging parents to protect them against measles by ensuring they have been immunised with two doses of MMR, as measles still occurs in other countries who have not had as high vaccine uptake rates as us.

“Measles is a highly infectious disease which spreads very easily. It’s never too late to get your child immunised with two doses of the MMR vaccine. We cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. Delaying immunisation puts children at risk,” he said.

There has been speculation that the vaccine can cause autism or inflammatory bowel disease; however studies have shown that there is no evidence to link immunisation to either of the conditions.

Critics say those who opt to not give their child the vaccines are putting lives at risk.

Some parents believe the single vaccines are much safer for their children, and they shun the triple cocktail.

Medical researcher Dr Andrew Wakefield first reported a link between MMR and autism in 1998 but his evidence has been discredited. Vaccination rates in the UK and Ireland dropped sharply and this was followed by significantly increased incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in deaths and severe and permanent injuries.

In 2012, the number of parents in Northern Ireland who chose to give their children the MMR vaccination rose to an all-time high.

Private clinics also offer the single vaccines should parents wish to go down that route.