Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today (Tuesday) launched the Vaccine Alliance aimed at boosting the uptake of childhood vaccines and reducing vaccine hesitancy.
The Alliance will include healthcare professionals, policy makers, patient advocates, students, and representatives from groups most affected by vaccine hesitancy.
The Minister said:
A Steering Group to guide the work of the Vaccine Alliance has already met and includes a wide range of organisations including Barnardos, Unicef Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Pavee Point, and the Union of Students of Ireland, as well as parents, doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists. Further organisations will be added once the vision, values and aims of the Alliance have been agreed.
The Department of Health conducted research on vaccination to help inform the work of the Vaccine Alliance.
The research showed that:
The Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD, also spoke at the launch and welcomed the establishment of the Vaccine Alliance, saying:
Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said that the new Alliance will strengthen engagement across communities on vaccination and will build on the relationships that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals already have as the most trusted source of vaccine-related information for parents and their children.
Minister Harris also announced that the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has agreed to rename its Medal for Patient Advocacy, the ‘Laura Brennan Advocacy Medal’, in recognition of the late advocate’s work in increasing the HPV vaccine uptake. Ms Brennan’s parents attended the launch of the Vaccine Alliance.
The Alliance will be open to organisations and individuals that support its principles and its membership will be finalised between now and December.
In addition to the Alliance, the Minister is to meet with social media companies to discuss their efforts in combatting vaccine misinformation.
Why are vaccinations important?
Vaccinations are important to protect against Vaccine Preventable Diseases. They prime our immune systems to respond to pathogens which could otherwise cause infection or, as in the case of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), cancer.
What are the risks of not vaccinating?
Those who are not vaccinated and have not been exposed to a vaccine preventable disease are at a higher risk of developing infection and if they become infected they are more likely to develop complications compared with those who have been vaccinated. They also risk further passing their infection onto others. This includes people in the population who are unable to develop an immune response to fight infectious diseases and are at a high of serious complications and death, and infants who have not yet been fully vaccinated and are similarly are at risk of serious complications.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes. Despite the myths that have led to doubts among some people, an extensive body of research has proven the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. All vaccines used in Ireland are safe. They are licenced by either the Health Products Regulatory Authority or the European Medicines Agency only when they have been shown to be safe and effective. Licenced vaccines undergo thorough testing in multiple phases of trials before they are approved for use. Vaccines would not be recommended by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee or form part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule if there was uncertainty about their safety profile.