A public lecture, which aims to dispel some of the many myths surrounding the use of vaccines, is to take place in Dublin later this month.
Vaccines are widely acknowledged as one of the greatest inventions of modern human medicine. While they can produce side-effects in some, vaccines have significantly reduced or eliminated the risk of a number of dangerous conditions among millions of people worldwide, such as smallpox, polio and measles.
However, misleading information about some vaccines still persists and this can have major consequences. One of the main examples of this is the case of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.
Since the late 1990s, uptake of this vaccine has not been at optimum levels.
The decline in immunisation rates has been partly blamed on a widely publicised 1998 study claiming to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The small study by Dr Andrew Wakefield was published in the influential medical journal, The Lancet and its findings were trumpeted globally by anti-vaccine activists and some high-profile media commentators.
Since then, many parents worldwide, Including in Ireland, have chosen not to have their children vaccinated with the triple vaccine. This is despite the fact that a number of large-scale studies since 1998 have found no such link with autism.
Furthermore in early 2004, the editor of The Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, said that Dr Wakefield's study should never have been published as it was ‘flawed' and in 2010, Dr Wakefield was struck off the medical register in the UK after its General Medical Council (GMC) found him guilty of serious professional misconduct over the way in which he carried out his research.
Dr Wakefield was accused of carrying out, as part of his research, invasive tests on vulnerable children which were against their best interests. The GMC said he did not have the ethical approval or relevant qualifications for such tests.
More recently, in Ireland there has been a decline in young teenage girls getting the HPV vaccine, due to concerns that it may be linked to a number of conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is the main cause of cervical cancer and a national HPV vaccination programme has been in place since 2010. As part of this, all girls attending first year in secondary school are offered the vaccine free of charge.
Meanwhile, the new US President, Donald Trump, has also added fuel to the fire by stating that he believes children get too many vaccines and that they can be harmful.
The public lecture, Vaccines - benefits, risks, myths and the Trump effect, will be presented by Trinity College Immunologist, Prof Kintston Mills. He will explain the scientific basis of vaccinaton and how vaccines can prevent deadly infections.
He will also discuss the risks of developing unwanted vaccine-associated side-effects.
Prof Mills will also look at future scientific developments in this area, including how vaccines are being developed and tested for the prevention and treatment of a number of conditions, including cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
This public lecture will take place on Wednesday, February 15, in the Stanley Quek Lecture Theatre, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Pearse Street, Dublin 2, at 6.30pm.
Admission is free of charge.
For more information on vaccines, or to keep track of your child's vacccinations, see our unique Child Immunisation Tracker here
I think parents deserve to know that Prof Mills has pharmaceutical ties before attending his lecture.
Would that be like the 'ties' engineers who help develop hybrid cars have to the car industry?