The HSE has targeted all of Donegal with information on childhood immunisation in an effort to increase the uptake
A public health specialist has made an appeal for an increase in the uptake in the Covid-19 and child immunisation vaccinations in Donegalafter figures highlighted the low level of Covid-19 vaccinations in county.
Dr Anthony Breslin, director of public health with the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the north-west, made the appeal after figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the south Inishowen area has the lowest percentage of people fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19 in the State.
He said the area has a high level of vaccine scepticism that relates to child immunisation as well vaccination against Covid-19, saying it is down to “behaviour and beliefs”.
“In the longer term, what is concerning is that the child vaccination rates are much lower in Donegal in comparison to Sligo and Leitrim,” he said.
Dr Breslin said there has been a low uptake in recent years in the area of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
“The uptake of that in Donegal is just over 84%while in Sligo-Leitrim it is up at 89%.”
He said there is a similar figure for other vacancies such as meningitis vaccines which have an 83% uptake in Donegal compared to 89% in Sligo-Leitrim.
“It’s a very effective vaccine. It has been very good in protecting against meningitis but at the same time if you don’t have the vaccine you don’t have that protection.”
Dr Breslin said the issue has been a problem in Donegal for the last five or six years and there is a similar situation across the border in Derry.
“It's very difficult to work against sentiment and there is a similar perception of vaccines on the other side of the border in the Derry area.
“Obviously people get into these groups with like-minded individuals and it is very hard to counteract the disinformation on some of those groups.”
The HSE has targeted all of Donegal with information on childhood immunisation in an effort to increase the uptake.
He said the anti-vaccine sentiments, which are communicated through social media groups, are prevalent in Derry and nearby areas in south Inishowen.
He said there is concern that the level of Covid-19 vaccination in the area is too low as the disease tends to come in waves.
“We will probably have another wave at the end of September, early October. And combining that with influenza, which we will probably get as well, we will have more people ill. We want to stop people from getting ill or if they do get ill, not to have a severe illness, particularly if they are elderly or immuno-compromised.
“Donegal had one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country this time last year, so it is ironic that we have had high Covid rates but very low [vaccine] uptake rates.”
He said Covid-19 vaccination clinics held in Buncrana on Friday and Saturday were part of the rotation of clinics and not specifically aimed at the low uptake in the area.
Ongoing campaigns to increase the level of Covid-19 vaccinations and childhood immunisation will continue, he said.
“The vaccines are safe, they are effective. We don't want to see big upsurges in Covid, we don't want to see meningitis, we don't want to see measles and other infectious diseases. It is important, it has been important, it will be important."
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