The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a group of scientists advising the UK government, has recommended the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine on the NHS for children. The proposal suggests administering the vaccine, also known as the varicella jab, in two doses at the ages of 12 months and 18 months. According to the JCVI, data from other countries indicates that the vaccine would significantly reduce the prevalence of circulating chickenpox and prevent severe cases in children.
In addition to the primary recommendation, the JCVI has proposed a temporary catch-up program for older children. Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, chairman of the JCVI, emphasized the potential seriousness of chickenpox and its complications in some individuals, leading to hospitalization and even death. He highlighted the positive impact the varicella vaccine could have on reducing the number of chickenpox cases in the community, particularly the more severe cases.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will now review the JCVI’s recommendation. While the chickenpox vaccine has been implemented in other countries such as the US and Australia for many years, the NHS has expressed concerns in the past about potential risks, particularly an increased incidence of chickenpox and shingles in adults. The argument was that if a childhood vaccination program were introduced, individuals wouldn’t contract the virus as children, leaving unvaccinated children susceptible to chickenpox as adults, when cases can be more severe. However, the current thinking around the vaccine has evolved, prompting a reconsideration of its introduction in the UK.