Ireland experiences major drop in vaccine uptake

A recent study found that the vaccine uptake in Ireland for two childhood vaccines dropped significantly after a change to the immunization schedule in July 2008.

In July 2008, Ireland changed its immunization schedule, extending from 12 to 13 months the uptake of meningococcal serogroup C and the haemophilus influenza type B vaccines. The uptake of the vaccine then dropped from 95 percent to 80 percent in the northwest part of the country, the Irish Times reports.

Louise Cullen, a surveillance scientist with the Health Service Executive, said that the drop is a cause for concern because 95 percent is the target uptake for best protecting the population.

Cullen, who presented her research at a conference in Sligo General Hospital, said that the national average dropped to approximately 80 percent for the vaccine coverage as well.

"Because of its name, some parents may believe that the haemophilus influenzae booster has something to do with the flu," Cullen said, according to the Irish Times.

The Hib vaccine actually protects against life-threatening meningitis.

The study showed that multiple factors contributed to the drop, including a lack of awareness that any boosters were needed at 13 months and safety concerns about the vaccines. Approximately 50 percent of parents who defaulted had safety concerns, despite a recent campaign in Ireland to alleviate fears about vaccines like the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, the Irish Times reports.