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Health Minister should introduce meningitis vaccine - Ó Caoláin

18 September, 2006

Immunisation against life-threatening diseases including meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia has been introduced in the Six Counties since the start of September and should now be provided throughout Ireland. Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called for the vaccine to be administered on an all-Ireland basis after leading charities called for its introduction today.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Routine immunisation against Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD), including the second most common form of meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia is now being administered to children in the Six Counties. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee in the 26 Counties has been considering this matter since 2001 yet the vaccine has still not been provided universally to children.

"There is now a compelling case for this vaccine to be included in the immunisation programme for all children. It has been introduced in ten EU states as well as Norway, Canada, Australia and the USA. The success rate in reducing pneumococcal meningitis and other serious diseases has been very significant. As well as being life-threatening, these diseases can leave surviving children with severe disabilities.

"We now have an anomalous situation where neighbours' children in the Border region are subject to different immunisation programmes with those in the Six Counties better protected against these diseases. This is causing confusion and real concern among parents of young children in the Border counties. Such a situation cannot be allowed to continue and I am urging the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to introduce the vaccine into the immunisation programme." ENDS

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