MASS vaccination clinics have been set-up in Cork amid concerns that thousands of children who had been due to receive immunisations missed out on the vaccines due to the Covid-19 school closures.
The Cork Kerry Community Healthcare School Immunisation Programme usually offers pupils in Junior Infants the MMR and the 4-in-1 vaccination every year, while all first-year students in second-level are offered the HPV, Tdap and MenACWY vaccines.
However, the programme was suspended in March with around 13,000 children in Cork and Kerry not receiving vaccines.
Four vaccination clinics are now being established at Nemo Hurling and Football club, St Mary’s Health campus, The Gilbert Centre in Mallow and the new Bantry Primary Care Centre to try to tackle the backlog.
Dr Anglela O’Leary, Principal Medical Officer with the HSE, said they are “very worried” there is a large cohort of children who are not fully protected against diseases which can be prevented by the vaccines.
“We really are encouraging people to take up the vaccines because obviously we want to prevent the infectious diseases that these vaccines are used to counteract such as measles and mumps. We have had outbreaks of measles and mumps in recent years.
“We are worried about a second run at Covid. We don’t want that, to have to be dealing with that and possibly flu and then possibly children who haven’t been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella and Tdap and HPV who could all be presenting to hospitals at the same time,” she said.
Parents and guardians of children who were in Junior Infants or first year in the 2019/2020 school year and who hadn’t received their scheduled vaccinations before the closure of schools will receive a letter with an appointment for their child.
“There really is a short time scale for this to try and get as many of them done in the summer as we possibly can. We really are encouraging people to, if at all possible, even if they are down on in Youghal or Barleycove or wherever on their holidays to come up for it because we have a very tight time schedule,” she said.
The Principal Medical Officer said that while there have not been outbreaks of diseases like measles and mumps in recent months, that the number of cases of infectious diseases will increase when people begin mixing again.
“We haven’t seen them in recent months because everybody was in lockdown so children weren’t mixing so you aren’t going to see outbreaks in that kind of situation but as soon as people start to mix again you will see increased numbers, and particularly if you have a cohort out there who aren’t protected, they are at risk so you will most definitely see outbreaks.
Dr O’Leary added: “I would be very worried as the Principal Medical Officer to think that we have a cohort of children out there who weren’t fully protected. Our usual vaccine uptake rates would be low 90s (%), but if we were to drop 20 or 30 per cent off that, you would be very worried about the upsurges in infectious disease that you would see.”