By Niall Hunter-Editor
The sole GP in Ireland administering single doses of the MMR vaccination has said the Department of Health should think twice before deciding to add yet another vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule.
The Department has said it is considering following the lead of the UK by introducing a new vaccination for children against pneumococcal disease.
However, Dundalk GP Dr Mary Grehan has warned that introducing this could lead to a negative reaction among parents fearful of their children being 'overloaded' with vaccines. She warned that fears over overloading could lead to overall childhood immunisation rates dropping at a time when efforts were being made to increase uptake.
She said that despite reassurances given following vaccine scares over the years and despite the discrediting of research linking the MMR vaccine to autism, parents were still worried about MMR and other childhood vaccines.
Dr Grehan has been providing single measles mumps and rubella vaccinations on request for the past two-and-a-half years.
At present, babies and toddlers get a five component vaccine (diphtheria/tetanus/whooping cough/polio/haemophilus influenza B) at two, four and six months, meningitis C vaccine as a separate injection at two, four and six months, and an initial MMR vaccination at 15 months.
Dr Grehan says this is already a large number of vaccinations for babies and adding a further vaccine could lead to overload. She said some parents had approached her practice asking for split vaccines for the five-in-one, in addition to parents who were already seeking separate MMR vaccinations.
Dr Grehan queried whether there was a need to give babies a vaccine against pneumococcal disease, as cases of this were 'pretty rare' in Ireland among infants.
Currently, elderly patients and other at-risk adult groups are vaccinated against pneumococcal infection.
The Department of Health says the National Immunisation Advisory Committee is examining whether to include pneumococcal vaccination in the primary immunisation programme, but no decision has yet been made.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.