TDs call for national rollout of chickenpox vaccination

Thousands of children catch the highly contagious chickenpox each year. Picture: PA

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.

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