Uptake rates for MMR vaccine in Northern Ireland have reached an all-time high.
Statistics have shown that uptake for the vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, is 95.3% at two years of age. This exceeds the World Health Organization’s target for MMR vaccination is 95%.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health, Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “It is excellent news that the latest quarterly statistics show that MMR uptake at two years of age has exceeded 95% for the first time ever in Northern Ireland.
“Virtually all parents here are now choosing to have their children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella before two years of age. By doing so they have done the best thing for their children and protected them against these serious infections.
“These excellent uptake rates are also a testament to the GPs, practice nurses, health visitors and treatments room nurses, as well as child health computer system staff and administration support staff who all play a very important part in delivering the vaccination programme, and in helping us attain levels above the UK average.
“The PHA wishes to promote the core message that immunisation of every child is vital to prevent diseases and protect life. It is never too late to get the vaccines, just speak to your GP or health visitor to arrange it.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots also welcomed the news: “Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infections conditions which can be life threatening, and MMR vaccine is the safest and most effective way to ensure protection.
“These most recent figures are very encouraging and parents are to be congratulated for taking this very positive step to ensure their children are protected.
“I would also like to congratulate our health professionals for this very significant achievement. Our GPs, health visitors and treatment room and practice nurses have played a vital role in informing parents about the importance of getting their child vaccinated and in delivering the vaccination programme.”
It is recommended that all children should have two doses of MMR vaccine by age four to ensure they are protected.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride added: “The seriousness of measles, mumps and rubella should not be underestimated. Each condition can bring serious complications including meningitis, swelling of the brain and deafness. They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage.
“These new figures are excellent but there is still some room for improvement. We only have to look at recent outbreaks in Northern Ireland and across the UK to see that the very real danger of children not receiving MMR vaccine. I would therefore urge all parents to ensure their children are protected.”
Notes to the editor
1. The first dose of MMR vaccine is normally given just after the child’s first birthday (this is measured at two years of age and this year has reached 95.3%).
2. The second dose is given at three years and four months.
3. The vaccine works by triggering the immune system (the body’s natural defence against infection and illness) to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella.