The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is an independent committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland which is comprised of experts in a number of specialties, including infectious diseases, paediatrics, and public health, which makes recommendations to my Department on vaccination policy in Ireland. Its recommendations are based on the prevalence of the relevant disease in Ireland and international best practice in relation to immunisation. NIAC continues to revise recommendations so as to allow for the introduction of new vaccines in Ireland and to keep abreast of changes in the patterns of disease.
On foot of a recommendation by NIAC, the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule was amended in 2016 to include the introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine for all babies born on or after 1 October 2016. This change to the immunisation schedule took effect from 1 December 2016. The first dose of the vaccine is administered to children when they reach two months of age; a second dose is administered at four months and a third and final dose at twelve months. Meningitis B disease is most common in babies under 1 year of age and the scheduling of the administration of the vaccine under the immunisation programme as recommended by NIAC takes this into account.
All vaccines administered through the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule are provided free of charge. Ireland is the second country in Europe to make the Men B vaccine available free of charge as part of its national immunisation programme.
There are no plans to introduce a catch-up programme for the Men B vaccine to older children. Those who have a medical card are eligible to have the vaccine administered by their GP free of charge. However, the purchase of the vaccine is not covered by the medical card scheme.
In Ireland, the following meningitis vaccines are provided to children born on or after 1 October 2016 as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule:
- 2 months - 6-in-1, pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) and Men B;
- 4 months - 6-in-1 and Men B (Meningococcal B);
- 6 months - 6-in-1, PCV and Men C (Meningococcal C);
- 12 months - Men B;
- 13 months - Hib/Men C and PCV.
Note that the 6-in-1 vaccine contains Hib (Haemophilus influenzae b).
Adolescents are also given a Men C booster vaccine in the first year of secondary school against meningitis as part of the School Immunisation Programme.
It is important to note that, although some of the recent notified cases are related to Meningitis B, none of the deaths have been attributed to this strain of the disease.