TDs call for na­tional roll­out of chick­en­pox vac­ci­na­tion

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Elaine Loughlin Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

Calls have been made to in­tro­duce a vac­ci­na­tion to pre­vent thou­sands of chil­dren catch­ing the highly con­ta­gious chick­en­pox each year.

The Vari­vax vac­cine is not part of the na­tional child­hood im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme at present, de­spite hav­ing been suc­cess­fully rolled out in other coun­tries.

Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are now call­ing for the vac­ci­na­tion, which is cur­rently avail­able pri­vately, to be rolled out as part of the pub­lic sys­tem.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Don­nelly said that along with the health ben­e­fits of any vac­ci­na­tion there is also the eco­nomic im­pact of par­ents hav­ing to take time off work to look after a sick child.

“I do know as a par­ent of three chil­dren, when your kids get chick­en­pox, on the ba­sis of both par­ents work­ing, which is the re­al­ity for many fam­i­lies now, it does take the par­ent out of work for up to a week so there is an eco­nomic el­e­ment to this too.

“We are poor in Ire­land at pre­ven­ta­tive pub­lic health. We un­der-re­source pub­lic health,” he said.

Sinn Féin health spokesper­son Louise O’Reilly said she would sup­port the roll-out of a chick­en­pox vac­cine along with an in­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign.

Se­na­tor Lor­raine Clif­ford-Lee, who has raised the is­sue in the Seanad, said: “There are many risks as­so­ci­ated with chick­en­pox such as pneu­mo­nia, menin­gi­tis, and, in later life, shin­gles, all of which can be very dan­ger­ous in them­selves.

“It is part of the vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme in many coun­tries, such as the United States of Amer­ica. Since its in­tro­duc­tion into the na­tional pro­gramme of that coun­try 15 years ago, hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions and deaths due to chick­en­pox have dropped by 80%.”

She said chil­dren whose par­ents can­not af­ford to pay to have them pri­vately vac­ci­nated are be­ing left at risk.

Vari­vax can be given to chil­dren over 12 months, is ad­min­is­tered in two doses, and is very ef­fec­tive in chil­dren un­der the age of 13.

The calls come as pres­sure mounts to also in­clude a catch-up vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme for the menin­gi­tis B strain.

Pic­ture: PA

Thou­sands of chil­dren catch the highly con­ta­gious chick­en­pox each year.

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