Parents urged to make sure their child’s immunisations are up-to-date


Following the detection of Poliovirus in sewage from North and East London the Public Health Agency (PHA) is taking this opportunity to remind parents to make sure their child’s immunisations are up-to-date.

Rachel Spiers, Immunisation and Vaccination Programme Manager at the PHA said: “Many childhood diseases that were common in the UK prior to the introduction of vaccination have been dramatically reduced or have disappeared altogether. However, once a disease fades from prominence, it is easy to forget how serious they could be. Unless vaccine uptake remains high in Northern Ireland, many deadly diseases could return.”

Polio is a rare disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.

The UK is considered by the World Health Organization to be polio-free with low-risk for polio transmission due to the high level of vaccine coverage across the population. However, vaccine coverage for childhood vaccines has decreased nationally over the past few years, making the re-emergence of these diseases a very real possibility.

Protection against polio, along with other ‘diseases of the past’ such as diphtheria and tetanus, remain part of the free childhood vaccination programme today, and like all vaccines that are offered on the immunisation programme, these have been proven to be both safe and effective, and are saving and improving lives.

Ms Spiers continued: “The childhood vaccination programme has been a tremendous success, with Northern Ireland having uptake rates above the UK average. However, some vaccines have seen a decline in uptake, albeit a small one.

“It is possible that during the COVID-19 pandemic some parents may have been cautious about going to their GPs, not wanting to burden them or they did not realise they were still offering routine immunisations.

“If your child has missed a vaccination, please contact your GP practice to book an appointment as soon as you can to make sure they have maximum protection against disease.”

The detection of Poliovirus in the sewage monitoring in London does not indicate any risk to the public in Northern Ireland, however, it is only when people continue to get their children and themselves vaccinated in large numbers that we can prevent these types of diseases, and possible deaths, so it is vitally important that we don’t take our health and that of our children for granted. Not only that, but getting kids vaccinated also helps protect those who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination, such as tiny babies.

After clean water, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention in the world for saving lives and promoting good health, and therefore one of the most important things that any parent can do is get their child vaccinated and encourage them to continue this throughout their own lifetime.

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Notes to the editor

UKHSA Press release - Poliovirus detected in sewage from North and East London -