THE West Cork region has one of the lowest uptake rates of the meningitis C vaccine, according to figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
The figures show that while the national average uptake rate is consistently over the 85% threshold, the rate of uptake at 12 months and 24 months shows that one in five children in West Cork did not receive the vaccine in the past year.
The revelation comes after 11 cases, including one in the Cork/Kerry region, were notified to the HPSC since the last week in December.
Nationally, three people have died from the illness in recent weeks. Another possible case is also being investigated.
There were nine confirmed cases in Cork and Kerry in 2018 and 12 in 2017.
Public Health specialist in the HSE South, Dr Fiona Ryan, warned of a further increase as flu season ramps up.
“At this time of year we would expect to see an increase but nationally, there is concern that it is more than we would have seen last year,” she explained.
“Locally, we haven’t seen that increase yet but, at this time of year, we are expecting to see an increase in Cork and Kerry in the coming weeks or months.”
The meningitis C vaccine was introduced in Ireland in October 2000 into the infant immunisation schedule at two, four and six months.
A catch-up programme was also launched offering the vaccine to everyone up to and including 22 years of age.
Group C meningitis accounted for 30% to 40% of the meningococcal disease cases each year before the vaccine was introduced in Ireland.
Since 2014, however, the HPSC has noted an increase in the disease caused by group C.
In 2013, just one case was reported. However, in 2018, 89 cases were reported, 19 of which were caused by group C.