A VACCINE for chickenpox is set to be dished out to children as part of the UK’s routine jabs programme.
Two doses could be offered to children aged 12 and 18 months after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation gave the jab the green light.
The Government advisers said the jab will help reduce “tragic, more serious cases” of the common illness if given final approval by the Department of Health and Social Care.
It could spell the end of “chickenpox parties”, when parents deliberately get their children infected at a young age to build up their immunity.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, of the JCVI, said: “Chickenpox is well known, and most parents will probably consider it a common and mild illness among children.
“But for some babies, young children and even adults, chickenpox or its complications can be very serious, resulting in hospitalisation and even death.
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“Adding the varicella 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.
“We now have decades of evidence from the US and other countries showing that introducing this programme is safe, effective and will have a really positive impact on the health of young children.”
Chickenpox, known medically as varicella, is an extremely common infection that affects around 90 per cent of children in the UK by the age of 15.
It normally causes an itchy, spotty rash that resolves itself after one or two weeks without needing to see a doctor.
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However, in some cases children can suffer serious complications like brain inflammation, pneumonia or bacterial skin infections.
Several countries including the US, Japan, Australia, Canada include chickenpox vaccine in their routine childhood vaccination programmes.
In 2009 the JCVI ruled out a UK-wide vaccination programme for chickenpox owing to the concerns over shingles.
The virus can cause shingles in adults who have previously had chickenpox, but they benefit from a boost to their immunity from chickenpox circulating among children.
It was thought that vaccinating children would cause a problematic rise in shingles for as long as 20 years, but a new long-term study from the US has shown this not to be the case.
The JCVI's recommendation has been submitted to the the Department of Health and Social Care, which will have the final say on whether and when the jabs will be dished out.
It has also recommended a temporary catch-up programme for older children be included.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Introducing a vaccine against chickenpox would prevent most children getting what can be quite a nasty illness – and for those who would experience more severe symptoms, it could be a life saver.
“The JCVI’s recommendations will help make chickenpox a problem of the past and bring the UK into line with a number of other countries that have well-established programmes.”
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