Adults to miss free chicken pox jabs


‘‘Chick­en­pox par­ties are need­lessly dan­ger­ous when there is a safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cine avail­able.’’

Free chick­en­pox vac­cines for chil­dren and ba­bies will be of­fered from next month, but there are no plans to ex­tend the jabs to the rest of the pop­u­la­tion.

The free vac­cine will be­come part of the im­mu­ni­sa­tion sched­ule for 15-month-olds on July 1.

All chil­dren turn­ing 11 years of age on or af­ter that date, who have not yet had chick­en­pox or been im­mu­nised, will also be en­ti­tled to a free dose.

Older chil­dren or those who don’t meet the cri­te­ria will need to pur­chase the vac­cine if they want it. One dose costs about $80.

Phar­mac di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions Sarah Fitt said the free vac­cine would ben­e­fit more than 100,000 peo­ple and had been in­tro­duced as part of new clin­i­cal ev­i­dence which showed the ben­e­fits of be­ing im­mu­nised against chick­en­pox.

Pre­vi­ous re­search had shown the vac­cine car­ried some risks that might have out­weighed the ben­e­fits of a uni­ver­sal vac­cine, Fitt said.

The­o­ret­i­cal risks in­cluded the in­creased pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting shin­gles later in life if ex­posed to the chick­en­pox virus.

That re­search had since been re­viewed by Phar­mac’s clin­i­cal ad­vi­sors, who now rec­om­mend uni­ver­sal vac­ci­na­tion.

Chick­en­pox can lead to se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, such as pneu­mo­nia, prob­lems with the kid­neys, heart, joints or ner­vous sys­tem.

Symp­toms in­clude tired­ness, fever, aches and pains and the tell-tale rash of small pop­ping blis­ters all over the body.

Chick­en­pox is very con­ta­gious and can be spread through the air and through an in­fected per­son touch­ing blis­ters and then touch­ing ob­jects or peo­ple.

The Min­istry of Health warned against the once-com­mon chick­en­pox par­ties, which are still oc­ca­sion­ally held as a way to boost a child’s im­mu­nity and ex­pose them to the ill­ness early on.

Dr Pat Tuohy said the risks of catch­ing chick­en­pox, even as a child, were greater than the risks of get­ting vac­ci­nated.

‘‘Chick­en­pox par­ties are need­lessly dan­ger­ous when there is a safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cine avail­able.’’

Teenagers and adults who have never had chick­en­pox or been vac­ci­nated against it are rec­om­mended, but not funded, to have two doses of chick­en­pox vac­cine, be­cause they are at greater risk of com­pli­ca­tions if they catch the dis­ease.

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