As you are aware the immunisation programme in Ireland is based on the advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). The committee's recommendations are based on the prevalence of the relevant disease in Ireland and international best practice in relation to immunisation. It makes recommendations on vaccination policy to my Department. NIAC continues to revise recommendations to allow for the introduction of new vaccines in Ireland and to keep abreast of changes in the patterns of disease. Therefore, the immunisation schedule will continue to be amended over time.
The ages at which vaccines are recommended in the primary childhood immunisation schedule are chosen by NIAC in order to give each child the best possible protection against disease. Measles is an acute and serious infection caused by the measles virus and is highly infectious. It is a notifiable disease (under Infectious Disease legislation) and all cases are reported to Departments of Public Health within the HSE. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended by NIAC – one dose at 12 months of age and a second booster dose when your child is 4/5 years of age.
It is important to note that vaccine hesitancy is not unique to Ireland. It is a global issue and has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the ten leading threats to global health in 2019.
One of my priorities as Minister for Health is to increase vaccination rates across the country and several options in this area are being explored. In this regard, I launched the Vaccine Alliance in September. Its aim is to increase the uptake of childhood vaccines and reduce vaccine hesitancy. The group includes a wide range of organisations and further organisations will be added once the terms of reference, key target audiences, and priorities for the Vaccine Alliance have been agreed.