Parents: Important vaccination difference between United States and Ireland
Almost weekly throughout the school year my son would come home and announce details of the latest kid in his class to get chickenpox (that's varicella for all your sciencey folk). More often than not the kid would be out of school for a week or so, and when they'd return they would still be showing signs of the illness. Pretty normal stuff here in Ireland, it seems. Almost all kids here get the chickenpox. Why? Read on.
When we moved here, it was a big surprise to hear that in Ireland children are not vaccinated against Chickenpox. Not as part of the regular schedule of immunizations at least anyway. In the US, almost every kid is. It's the norm in America to vaccinate against the illness, and therefore you are very unlikely to hear of an outbreak. The norm in America is for children to receive their first immunization around 12 months old, and again when they are around 4 years old. The CDC recommended immunization schedule can be found here.
In Ireland, if you want your child immunized against chickenpox, then you must go about specially ordering the vaccination, and having your doctor administer it. This is precisely what we did when we arrived. Our youngest was too young before we left America to get the vaccine, so we did it soon after arriving. There were neighbour kids, and cousins too, who were passing it from one to another, and we didn't want our little one at risk. You may be wondering the cost...we paid a total of 140 Euros. That was for 2 shots, a few days apart, at 70 each.
Some people thought we were crazy to get the vaccine. There is a very laid back attitude to a lot of things in Ireland, and kids getting chickenpox is one of those things. The statistics are highly in favour of kids coming out the other side of it feeling healthy and fine, but there can be a serious risk to their health too. Small as the risk is, in my view (a view possibly altered by living in the US) it's not one worth taking.
It'll probably be a relief to most parents moving to Ireland with their kids to hear that Ireland does have a vaccination program in place for children, and all the major life-threatening illnesses are vaccinated against (e.g. TB, MMR, etc). However, unlike other countries (including at least parts of the US) there is no legal requirement to vaccinate before your child goes to school. It's comforting to know that almost every parent does vaccinate their kids against the worst illnesses, and it's also good to hear that there is a school vaccination program in place (see the links below) which at least serves as a reminder to parents to make sure their kids are kept up-to-date on the recommended immunizations.
If you are moving here and want to try to avoid your kid suffering with chickenpox, I suggest getting the vaccine taken care of in advance of getting here if you can. In our case, if we had left the US a month or so later, it would've been administered for free as part of the regular routine of childhood immunizations.
I'd be interested to hear from anyone familiar with other medical situations that might be different here in comparison with other countries. Leave a comment below, or send me a message via the contact form if you'd prefer.
- HSE Chickenpox info http://www.hse.ie/portal/eng/health/az/C/Chickenpox/
- CA Dept of Health info https://www.cdph.ca.gov/HEALTHINFO/DISCOND/Pages/Varicella.aspx
- CDC vaccine info: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/varicella/default.htm
- Citizens Information Child Health Services http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health/children_s_health/child_health_services.html
- HSE Immunization info http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/
- HSE School Program Immunization info http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/schoolprog/