Vaccinated children could be left deaf or suffer other complications through being exposed to mumps, the Oireachtas health committee has heard.
Doctors say there has been a "huge upsurge" in children who have been vaccinated presenting with mild symptoms of mumps, according to Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell.
“There’s almost the belief that if you are vaccinated, you’re grand, but you’re not,” she warned.
People who were vulnerable or immuno-compromised, for example with cancer, or older people could become seriously ill with mumps, with lasting effects such as secondary deafness.
Vaccines require high levels of uptake to provide ‘herd immunity’ and population-wide protection. However, uptakes of childhood vaccines in Ireland have dropped in recent years and many do not meet the target.
Ms O’Connell, a pharmacist, called on HSE public health staff to initiate an information campaign to alert people to the dangers of not getting vaccinated, both for parents’ children and the wider population.
The full course of MMR vaccine offers good protection against measles for 99 per cent of people, against rubella (German measles) for 95 per cent and against mumps for 88 per cent. Booster shots are available.
Ireland should be making preparation for what to do in the event of an epidemic of measles or other infectious diseases, Ms O’Connell said.
“It’s not lack of information that makes people not vaccinate children. It’s over supply of wrong information,” she said, pointing to a growing “celebrity element” in the dissemination of public health messages.
Kardashian baby shower
Kim Kardashian recently held a CBD (cannabidiol)-themed baby shower, while "anti-vaxx" doctor Andrew Wakefield is currently dating model Elle McPherson, she pointed out.
“This celebrity element is coming into issues that have a serious effect on our public health. We as legislators have to be really strong on this. If we let the Kardashians or Andrew Wakefield back into the mix on this, issues on which there has been huge investment in universities can be diminished by a reality TV star.”
Ms O’Connell also objected to the term “medicinal cannabis”, saying no drug should be allowed on the market by circumventing the normal regulatory process for medicines.
She questioned whey there was such a “big push” in the business world for the product when only 16 patients were on the compassionate access scheme.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said he had no plans to legalise cannabis but a compassionate access programme for medicinal cannabis would be set up over the summer months and a "health-led approach" was proposed to drug law reform.
The intention was to offer “the helping hand rather than the handcuff” to addicts and to respond to them “with something more than a blue siren”.