New alliance aims to boost vaccine uptake

Will provide evidence-based information
  • Deborah Condon

A new alliance, which aims to boost the uptake of vaccines in Ireland, has been launched.

The Vaccine Alliance, which was launched by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, will be made up of a number of people, including healthcare professionals, policy makers, patient advocates and representatives from groups most affected by vaccine hesitancy.

It will ensure that parents have "accurate, evidence-based information about vaccinations", the Minister said.

A steering group made up of healthcare professionals and a range of relevant organisations, such as Barnardos, Science Foundation Ireland and the Union of Students of Ireland, will guide the work of the alliance.

It has already met and according to the Department of Health, further organisations will be added to this group "once the vision, values and aims of the alliance have been agreed".

Speaking at the launch of the alliance, Minister Harris said that the suffering that today's vaccine preventable diseases caused to people 50 years ago "should act as a constant reminder that we need to keep promoting and investing in our vaccination programme".

"Vaccination rates across the country are falling and diseases we had consigned to the history books are now making a comeback. We cannot afford to do nothing. We cannot allow the success of our childhood immunisation programme become its enemy," he insisted.

Minister Harris said that the alliance will try to build on the success of the HPV vaccine programme, which has seen vaccination rates increase from 51% to 70% in just over two years.

The launch of the alliance was attended by the parents of HPV campaigner, Laura Brennan, who died in March of this year.

Ms Brennan, from Co Clare, was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer at the age of just 25. She contacted the HSE in 2017 and first provided her support to the HSE HPV Vaccine Information Campaign in April 2018. She worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the importance of getting vaccinated right up until her death.

At the launch, Minister Harris 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 her work in increasing the HPV vaccine uptake.

The alliance will be open to individuals and organisations that support its principles and its membership will be finalised by December.

The Minister added that he is also to meet with social media companies to discuss their role in combatting vaccine misinformation.

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