Offaly TD calls for free vaccines amid meningitis outbreak

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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news@offalyexpress.ie

Offaly TD calls for free vaccines amid meningitis outbreak

Offaly TD calls for free vaccines amid meningitis outbreak

Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly, Barry Cowen, has said it’s time to consider making the Meningitis B vaccine free to every child nationwide.

Deputy Cowen was commenting in the wake of the death of three people from the illness in the past three weeks.

"Meningococcal disease may occur at any age but the highest rate of meningococcal disease occurs in children under 5 years of age, especially children under one year of age.  The next highest risk group are young people aged 15-19 years. In Ireland the risk of infection is highest in winter and early spring," he said.

"It was a welcome development in 2016 when the lifesaving Meningitis B vaccine was made available free of charge for infants up to the age of 12 months. However, for other children, there is a cost of some €280 for the two shots required. For a family with several children, such a cost could be prohibitive. It could also be life-threatening."

"We need to examine what we can do to make it free for all children. The HSE must urgently consider providing it free to children in areas at risk. It’s also critical that the HSE moves to boost the take-up rates for all Meningitis vaccines as it has fallen slightly in recent years. These vaccines save lives and it is important that all our children get them. A more proactive approach is needed from government given three deaths in the past three weeks", concluded Deputy Cowen.