The fall-off is being blamed on 'fake news'
An Irish doctor has said parents who don't immunise their children should have thier child benefit cut.
Writing in the Medical Times, Dr Ruairi Hanley said there is an "ongoing campaign" against the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer in women.
Less than half of girls began the series of jabs last September - compared to the target level of 80% uptake.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Dr Yvonne Williams said Dr Hanley is raising a very important issue.
"Parents who choose not to vaccinate their own children, it does have a knock-on effect for all the children they come in contact with," she said.
However, she said that the suggestion of cutting child benefit might be dramatic.
"We don't want to see anything that would perhaps punish children. But I do think there probablys needs to be some incentivisation for parents.
"These diseases haven't gone away. There's outbreaks of polio in other countries. They can kill and they will kill."
Cancer experts previously warned 40 Irish women will die because of what is being called a misinformation campaign around the cervical cancer vaccine.
The Times Ireland reported some 15,000 vaccinations against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) were refused in 2016 as a result of "unsubstantiated" claims about the dangers of vaccines used in Ireland.
The paper said the number of doses of Gardasil - one of the vaccines used - fell by at least 5,000 from 2015.
It claims this drop that has been linked to an anti-vaccine lobby group.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is understood to be re-offering the treatment to those who refused it last year.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) echoed these statements last month, with President Dr Ann Hogan blaming the fall on social media campaigns.
"If you want to give medical advice on vaccinations, become a doctor" Minister Harris #IMOAGM17— Irish Medical Org (@IMO_IRL) April 22, 2017
Beyond HPV, several European countries are reporting measles outbreaks - with over 4,000 cases and 18 measles related deaths in Romania in the past six months.
Dr Brenda Corcoran, head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, said: “Other countries with recent measles outbreaks include Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Belgium.
“An outbreak involving 40 cases occurred in Ireland as recently as 2016.”
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and by close contact with an infected individual.
Two doses of MMR vaccine (at 12 months and 4-5 years of age) are required to be fully vaccinated.
The HSE says while uptake in Ireland has remained steady at around 92%, they want to increase rates to 95%.
“This is important for everybody but is particularly vital to protect young babies as they cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are 12-months-old so they are vulnerable to complications, including death, if they are exposed to measles infection”, Dr Corcoran said.
Over the past 30 years, more than 500 million doses of MMR vaccine have been given in over 90 countries.
Extensive research into the MMR vaccine - involving thousands of children - was carried out in the UK, the USA, Sweden, and Finland.
This research showed that there is no link between MMR and autism.