Dáil Éireann - Volume 451 - 30 March, 1995
Written Answers. - Hepatitis A and B Vaccination.
Ms Keogh Ms Keogh
71. Ms Keogh asked the Minister for Justice her policy on vaccination against the Hepatitis A and B virus in view of the implementation requirements of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations, 1994; and the number and percentage of Garda Síochána, prison officers and probation workers vaccinated in each of the years 1993 and 1994. [6716/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen) Nora Owen
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): My Department does not provide vaccination against hepatitis A as a routine procedure. I understand that current Department of Health advice is that generalised vaccination against hepatitis A is not justified. My Department will keep the situation in relation to hepatitis A vaccination under continuing review in the light of advice from the Department of Health.
As regards hepatitis B, the policy of  my Department since 1987 has been to offer vaccination, at State expense, to personnel based in prisons and places of detention. Approximately 1,800 of the personnel concerned availed of the vaccination programme in the period 1987-92. This figure includes teachers, chaplains and prison-based probation and welfare service personnel. The number of personnel vaccinated in the years 1993 and 1994 was 276 and 335, respectively. The vast majority of personnel, therefore, have been vaccinated and, essentially, the only persons who have not been vaccinated are those who declined the offer. I should add that my Department has been encouraging staff to have their antibody levels checked regularly to ensure that they maintain immunity against contracting the disease. Booster vaccinations are given as required.
Separate figures in relation to the overall number of probation and welfare service personnel — including those involved in non-prison activities — who have been vaccinated since the scheme commenced are not readily available. Statistics in relation to the service will be compiled and furnished to the Deputy when available.
With regard to the Garda Síochána, I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are aware of the requirements of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations, 1994, and have already taken the necessary steps to protect members of the force from contamination. A vaccination programme against Hepatitis was initiated in the Garda Síochána in 1989. Vaccination against hepatitis B was made available to all members of the force free of charge. In addition, a six internal circulars have been issued by the Garda authorities since 1984 on the necessity for all members of the force to take reasonable steps in relation to contagious diseases whilst on duty. Also, in February of this year all members received a notice in their pay cheques informing them of the existence of a booster programme for members who had received the original vaccine.  Members who had not availed of the vaccine to date were reminded of its availability. Only members of the underwater unit and members travelling overseas on UN duty are vaccinated against hepatitis A.
I am also informed by the Garda authorities that they estimate that almost 50 per cent of the force have been vaccinated against hepatitis and that there is almost a 100 per cent uptake of the vaccination by trainees at the Garda college prior to transfer to stations.
As the vaccine is administered by the Garda surgeon in the Dublin Metropolitan Area and by local general practitioners to members in country divisions, it is not possible, in the time available, to provide the specific information sought by the Deputy in respect of 1993 and 1994. However, I will endeavour to provide this information to the Deputy as soon as it can be compiled.
Dáil Éireann 451 Written Answers. Hepatitis A and B Vaccination.