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IrelandSimon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme

11:10  01 july  2019
11:10  01 july  2019 Source:   extra.ie

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Simon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland Simon Harris will lay down the gauntlet to TDs by demanding they support a vote to champion the increased uptake of lifesaving vaccines.

The Health Minister intends to put a cross-party motion calling on the Dail deputies to declare if they support our childhood immunisation programme — including the HPV jab for boys and girls.

His move comes as concern grows over the startling rise in cases of measles. Figures from last month showed a 25pc increase in the number of measles cases reported here so far this year — 60 cases, up from 48.

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Minister Harris told Extra.ie: ‘I believe this is an opportune time for the Oireachtas to send out a very clear message about its position on the issue of vaccinations.’ The minister is a strong advocate for vaccinations and earlier this yearExtra.ie revealed he ‘instinctively agrees’ with a ban on unvaccinated children attending schools and creches.

Mr Harris has, in recent weeks, circulated a motion to all health spokespersons in the Dail, which will ask them if they support ‘our childhood immunisation programmes and the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys’.

Simon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland Simon Harris vaccine

He told Extra.ie there are some people in society who ‘deliberately spread lies and nonsense about vaccinations and we need to call them out’.

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His cross-party motion also asks members to support ‘actions to strengthen dialogue with citizens, to understand their genuine concerns and doubts about vaccination and to adequately address these issues, on the basis of individual needs’.

It will also ask for support to establish a ‘Vaccine Alliance’ which will include ‘healthcare workers, policy-makers, patient advocates, parents and educators, to ensure that accurate, evidence-based and consistent messages about vaccination are spread, understood and acted upon’.

Simon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland Simon Harris vaccine

And it will call on TDs for their support on the ‘provision of continuing education and training for healthcare workers on vaccination and vaccine hesitancy’. It further calls on the Dail to ‘champion and advocate for increased uptake of childhood vaccines and HPV across communities’.

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Figures from June 6 showed that there were 60 notified cases of measles here in the first six months of the year, up from the 48 in the same period last years. There were 76 cases notified in all of last year.

Minister Harris hopes to table the motion in the coming weeks before the summer recess.

It asks that the Dail note there has been a 30pc increase in cases of measles around the world, that vaccine hesitancy has been identified as ‘one of ten leading threats to global health’, and that a ‘key challenge for policy-makers in combating vaccine hesitancy, particularly in the context of social media, is tackling myths and misinformation’.

Simon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

Minister Harris told Extra.ie: ‘Vaccine hesitancy is one of the greatest threats to public health and the health service is working extremely hard to counter the myths spread about vaccination and increase the uptake rates.

‘We have had some success in this regard but we have a significant body of work to do. This September, we will introduce the HPV vaccine for boys and roll out a new vaccine for meningitis. We will also attend the Global Vaccination Summit. I believe this is an opportune time for the Oireachtas to send out a very clear message about its position on the issue of vaccinations.’

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Simon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

But he added: ‘There are parents who have concerns and we want to work with them. However, there are also others who deliberately spread lies and nonsense about vaccinations and we need to call them out too.’

It is understood that, as of last Friday, his office had been notified of support from Sinn Fein, the Green Party, Labour and Independents4Change. Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fail’s spokesman on health, said his party will support the move.

He told Extra.ie: ‘The simple fact is vaccines save lives.’ ‘We inoculate our children not just to keep them healthy, but also to help protect other children around them.

Simon Harris blasts vaccine ‘myths’ and insists Dail must back childhood immunisation programme © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

‘Part of living in a responsible society is making sure we do what’s best for everyone, not just ourselves. The number of measles cases in this country, for example, tripled between 2017 and 2018. A disease like that can be deadly for someone with a compromised immune system.’

Mr Donnelly said ‘we know that vaccination is one of the most effective ways of preventing disease’, adding: ‘It currently saves between two and three million lives a year globally and a further 1.5million deaths could be avoided if worldwide uptake improved.

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