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Call for mass child chickenpox jab

A new report suggests that children should routinely be vaccinated against chickenpox to prevent deaths and severe complications.

There is already a vaccine for varicella, which is the medical name for the illness, available.

It could be added to the existing measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab by using the recently licensed MMRV vaccination, the report says.

However, its authors, who include Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at Bristol University, say controversy  surrounding the MMR jab would make it difficult to introduce MMRV at present.

Instead they suggest that the varicella vaccine should be given to teenagers who have not already had chickenpox.

Routine immunisation for chickenpox is currently only offered in the UK to healthcare workers and others who are at risk of contracting the illness or passing it on.

But the US, Canada, Australia and Finland have already introduced vaccination programmes for children.

Professor Finn said: "Chickenpox has traditionally been viewed as an irritating but inevitable infection to be endured during childhood, a rite of passage during the preschool years.

"This benign view persists despite evidence that certain groups, including neonates, adults, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised have higher risks of severe disease."

The report, "Severe Complications of Chickenpox in Hospitalised Children in the UK and Ireland", has been written by researchers from Bristol University, the University of London, Health Protection Scotland and the University of Sydney.

It will be published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Archives of Disease in Childhood

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Should chickenpox be routinely vaccinated against? Should it be added to the MMR jab?  Please leave your comments, name and location in the feedback box below. Your details will not be published if you so request. Terms and conditions apply

"Yes, I think children should be vaccinated against chickenpox.  If there is a safe vaccine then it would stop children being ill and reduce impact of time off school/work. I don't think it should be tagged onto the MMR - to be associated with the MMR may cause doubt in parents minds. I believe parents would welcome this vaccine" - Name and address supplied

"To combine MMR and varicella is an excellent idea and I feel it would help dispel the myths that surround the MMR vaccination, as long as there is no adverse media intervention. Chickenpox is a miserable disease that can have significant consequences. If there is a safe effective vaccine then it should be available to all" - Name and address supplied

"As a nurse whose two children have not had the MMR because I disagreed with the triple vaccine, I would not support the introduction of another vaccine into the mix. I agreed to my children having MMR if given as single doses but these were never arranged. All their other vaccinations are up to date. Both have had chickenpox at the same time and the hardest part of this was juggling work time as we isolated them from others to reduce spreading the infection. It can be managed if parents take responsibility for their children's care" - David Whitcombe Merthyr Tydfil

"No I don't think it should be added, and especially not to the MMR. It is difficult enough to convince parents to have the triple vaccine without adding another" - Name and address supplied

"I don't think parents are ready just yet to have an added vaccine to the MMR, since the contraversy. It perhaps should be with another vaccine, maybe BTU, but not the MMR' - Name and address supplied

"It should be introduced but I'm not sure whether it should be combined with MMR" - Name and address supplied

"I think the government should concentrate their efforts on increasing the uptake for the current vaccination schedule - increasing the poor uptake for hib booster and preschool boosters" - Name and address supplied