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‘Vaccine hesitancy’ challenges in Roma community

Challenges with the immunisation of minority groups in Ireland were raised at the June meeting of the National Immunisation Programme, according to minutes seen by this newspaper following a Freedom of Information request.

During a discussion on ‘vaccine hesitancy’, the minutes noted an outbreak of measles among the Roma community.

“HPSC (Health Protection Surveillance Centre) working with a Roma group and will put together a proposal following a local needs assessment,” according to the minutes.

In response to follow up queries from the Medical Independent (MI) regarding ‘vaccine hesitancy’ challenges in the Roma community, a HSE spokesperson said there are no specific vaccine uptake figures for the community.

“We do not have data regarding immunisation uptake in the Roma community in Ireland, as our national immunisation uptake systems do not currently collect demographic information on ethnicity,” the HSE spokesperson told MI.

“The National Immunisation Office (NIO) provides information materials for childhood vaccinations and whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women in Romanian and other languages.

“The NIO website also provides links to pictorial infographics related to immunisation developed by Waterford and Wexford Roma health projects. Members of the Roma community in Ireland are eligible to receive all vaccines included in national immunisation programmes.

“A needs assessment of the Roma community in Ireland was published by Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre and [the] Department of Justice and Equality in 2018.”

Vaccine hesitancy is a term defined by the WHO as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.

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