Expert Comment – Routine chickenpox vaccine recommended for children across UK15 November 2023 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended the use of a universal varicella (chickenpox) vaccine as part of routine childhood vaccinations, according to an announcement from the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care.
It is recommended that the vaccination should be given as a two-dose programme offered to children between the ages of 12 and 18 months in the UK, as part of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine.
The aim of the programme is to prevent severe cases of varicella, and other serious complications of infection which, while rare, may have otherwise resulted in hospitalisation or other serious outcomes.
Speaking about the announcement, Beate Kampmann, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:
“Whilst in most cases chickenpox is an annoying but usually fairly harmless infection in children, we must not overlook the really severe cases that can be caused not only by the chickenpox virus but also by superinfections, and we have certainly seen many, even fatal, cases in our paediatric intensive care units. I have personally looked after these kids for many years.
“It is therefore absolutely timely that the UK JCVI has finally recommended a safe and effective vaccine that has already been in use in many countries for years.”
Mark Jit, Professor of Vaccine Epidemiology at LSHTM, said:
“Previously, the UK was cautious about chickenpox vaccination because of the worry that exposure to chickenpox was protecting older people from getting shingles.
“Now we’ve seen data from the USA, which has been using chickenpox vaccines for decades, showing that shingles cases did not go up as a result of chickenpox vaccination.
“This is good news because it means we can protect our kids from getting chickenpox without having to worry about any unintended effects on older people.”
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