The misconception of chickenpox being a childhood rite of passage is a message one Kiwi mum wants to dispel following the outcome of a near-fatal decision not to immunise her daughter.
Charlotte Bass is urging mums and dads to vaccinate their children explaining that chickenpox was a very scary experience for her family.
Whilst on holiday in Auckland, Charlotte's two children started showing symptoms. "The cousins all got chickenpox so I sort of knew it was coming," she says.
Both of her children caught chickenpox she says but while her son recovered quickly, it wasn't the same for daughter *Frankie. "My daughter woke up in the morning covered in black welts. It looked like she’d been burned.”
They took Frankie to the local White Cross where the doctor said to "ride it out" and prescribed ibuprofen. Frankie was later taken to the local hospital emergency department, “It turns out ibuprofen may contribute to the flesh-eating disease necrotising fasciitis.” says Charlotte.
Frankie was admitted to Starship Hospital a week before her second birthday, but her health deteriorated rapidly.
"She developed a huge, painful rash down the right-hand side of her torso, we were told she had a staph infection. She then contracted MRSA," says Charlotte.
"My daughter’s immune system was so compromised she couldn’t fight it. She got hit really hard." The reality of Frankie possibly not returning home hit the family hard.
10 days later, Frankie was discharged from hospital but Charlotte says it took her several months to come back. "She’s been left with horrendous scars which she’s very self-conscious about. It’s been terrible – but the worst part about it is that it could all have been avoided."
Before her children contracted chickenpox, Charlotte says she had talked with her GP about whether or not to vaccinate. At the time, the vaccine was not Governmentt-funded.
"Chickenpox is tearing through schools - there are 17 kids in Frankie’s class, and 9 of them are out with chickenpox at the moment. I see so many parents on Facebook debating whether or not to vaccinate, and I get so frustrated.
"I know you can’t tell people they have a social responsibility to vaccinate their kids, but I feel like we do. It’s a virus that we are willingly exposing our children to. When we get a cold or flu, everyone stays away so they don’t get it, but when it’s chickenpox – bring it on!
"Some people seem to see chickenpox as some sort of rite of passage, and having been through our experience, it just astounds me. There is so much nonsense around vaccination, and it really frustrates me."
Charlotte says luckily Frankie is too young to remember what happened but urges parents to think seriously about immunising their children.
A new change in the National Immunisation Schedule came into effect on July 1, 2017.
Dr Helen Petousis-Harris believes the inclusion of the chickenpox vaccine means there is an opportunity to reduce the impact of the disease on New Zealand children and their whānau, for the first time.
Last week, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman welcomed the introduction of free chickenpox vaccination for 15-month-olds from July 1.
“One dose of chickenpox (or varicella) vaccine is funded for children turning 15 months of age on or after 1 July 2017. This will protect most immunised children from chickenpox. The few who do still catch the disease despite being immunised will be protected from its most severe effects,” says Dr Coleman.
For further reading on the research by Dr Petousis-Harris, read here.