'People have the wrong idea about chickenpox' - doctor's warning after four children hospitalised with complications
Four children are battling serious illness after being hospitalised with chickenpox this week.
Two of the children had bone infections and another had complicated seizures, according to infectious disease consultant Dr Karina Butler.
Dr Butler, who works in Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin and Temple Street, said there is an urgent need to make the jab to protect against chickenpox part of the routine set of vaccines given to children.
"People have the wrong idea about chickenpox. Just this week I have treated four children who were hospitalised with serious complications. When they get chickenpox they are not just vulnerable to its complications but also that of invasive bacteria," she said.
"There is a safe and licensed vaccine and I have to ask why are we not using it."
While chickenpox is a relatively mild illness for some most, it is also the leading infectious cause of stroke in children.
It can cause pneumonia, hepatitis and encephalitis.
Most seriously, it is a common cause of life-threatening bacterial infection including Group A Streptococcus (GAS) - the so called flesh eating bacteria, Dr Butler told the Oireachtas health committee.
Last year, Temple Street Hospital reported that 70pc of the cases of invasive GAS were associated with children who had first contracted a dose of chickenpox.
Dr Butler was among a group of doctors appearing before the committee to emphasise the need to increase the uptake of vaccines to prevent disease.
The meeting was told that the drop in the uptake of the cervical cancer vaccine - which has been mistakenly linked to symptoms such as chronic fatigue in teenage girls - has dropped to around 50pc.
The latest round of vaccines show the fall-off has stabilised and there will be more efforts to educate parents about it when their daughter is in sixth class, in advance of them being offered the jab in secondary school.
Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed yesterday that it was offering incentives such as chocolates and spot prizes to staff to avail of the flu vaccine.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, HSE Associate Director of Health Protection told the committee that when it comes to nurses "incentives work." He said "chocolates work very well." Also "draws for iPads work very well in improving the uptake."
A HSE circular sent out last year suggested using "raffles, spot prizes and chocolates" to boost take-up. Vaccine rates by staff rose by 50pc this winter.
However, the use of chocolates to encourage nurses to have the jab drew fire from Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation who said it was "patronising and insulting" to his members.