The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is an independent committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland comprising of experts from a wide range of specialties, including infectious diseases, paediatrics, and public health. NIAC 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 its recommendations to allow for the introduction of new vaccines in Ireland and to keep abreast of changes in patterns of disease. Therefore, the immunisation schedule will continue to be amended over time.
On foot of a previous 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. As Meningitis B disease is most common in babies under the age of 1 year old, the scheduling of the administration of the vaccine under the immunisation programme takes this into account.
In Ireland, Men B; Men C; PCV and Hib vaccines are offered to young children to protect them against meningitis and septicaemia. Ireland was the second country in Europe to make the Men B vaccine available free of charge as part of its national immunisation programme. All vaccines administered through the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule are provided free of charge.
There are no plans to introduce a catch-up programme for the Men B vaccine to be given to older children as NIAC has never recommended a catch up programme for children born before 1 October 2016. However, parents may choose to have their older children vaccinated privately if they wish. While the purchase of the vaccine itself is not covered by the medical card scheme, those who have a medical card are eligible to have the vaccine administered free of charge by their GP.