The HSE’s assistant national director for public health is urging anyone who has not been vaccinated for mumps and measles to go to their GP for a free vaccination.
Dr Kevin Kelleher warned that children and students are at increased risk of mumps as they return to school or college after the summer holidays but that the vaccine is available for free at doctor’s surgeries.
Immunisation rates in Ireland have dropped to 91%, and are as low as 80% in some parts of the country, he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan show.
While vaccination rates are down, control of the two highly infectious diseases is very good, he added.
Both are very serious diseases which can have dramatic outcomes such as encephalitis and meningitis along with infertility for men.
It is worrying that between 6,000 and 7,000 children every year are not vaccinated, said Dr Kelleher.
Not alone are they putting others at risk, but they are also suppressing their own immune systems.
If Ireland can get its vaccination rate up to 95% both diseases would be a feature of the past, he said.
With schools and colleges returning, symptoms to look out for are irritation, flu-like symptoms, a rash in the case of measles and swelling along the jaw line with mumps.
Anyone with such symptoms should stay at home so they do not infect other people.
Adults can avail of the free vaccine with the only charge being their GP administration charge.
Children are routinely vaccinated at 12 months, with a booster in Junior Infants.