Jabs for every baby in drive to banish chickenpox
ALL babies and toddlers are set to be offered chickenpox jabs under recommendations which aim to help make the infectious virus ‘a problem of the past’.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the vaccine should be offered in two doses at 12 months and 18 months.
It would be added to the existing MMR ( measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to create the
MMRV jab. Millions of older children would also be offered the chickenpox vaccine under a catchup programme.
It is hoped the move will see chickenpox join the likes of polio, mumps and smallpox in being all but eradicated by childhood vaccination programmes.
Such a programme on the nhS would also spell an end to controversial ‘chickenpox parties’, where children are intentionally exposed to the disease in the hope that they catch it while they are young when it is likely to be less severe. Known for its itchy red spots, chickenpox is highly contagious and can be spread through coughing, sneezing and direct contact with those who are infected.
Data from other countries suggests that the vaccine, which is known as the varicella jab, drastically reduces circulation of the virus while preventing the most severe cases in children.
Professor Andrew Pollard, of the JCVI, which has submitted its recommendations to the Department of health, said: ‘For some babies, young children and even adults, chickenpox or its complications can be very serious, resulting in hospitalisation and even death.
‘Adding the vaccine to the childhood immunisation programme will dramatically reduce the number of chickenpox cases in the community, leading to far fewer of those tragic, more serious cases.’
The nhS had been worried that introducing it could increase the risk of chickenpox and shingles – which it can cause – in adults.
Its website says if a childhood vaccination programme was introduced, people would not catch the virus as children, leaving unvaccinated ones to get infected as
‘This will help to eradicate it’
adults. But health officials will now look at the best ways to introduce the jab. Fewer cases during the pandemic mean there is currently a larger pool of children without immunity, the UK health Security Agency says. Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, from the agency, said: ‘[This] will help to make chickenpox a problem of the past.’