The majority of parents in the UK would be willing to vaccinate their children against the chickenpox virus, according to a study conducted by University College London and Keele University.
Almost three-quarters of UK parents would support the inclusion of varicella, the chickenpox vaccine, in the routine childhood vaccination schedule.
The findings are published in Vaccine and come as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering whether to recommend adding the varicella vaccine to the childhood vaccination schedule.
The researchers surveyed nearly 600 parents on their attitudes towards a chickenpox vaccine. Parents were asked questions, including whether it should be routinely offered to all children and whether they would likely accept it for their child.
Only 18.3% of survey participants said they would be unlikely to accept a vaccine for their child if it was introduced. 74% of people surveyed said they were likely to accept the vaccine, and 7.7% said they were unsure.
Professor Helen Bedford, co-lead author and an immunisation expert from UCL, said she was reassured that most UK parents would accept it for their child.
She said: ‘In our study, conducted in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was reassuring to find that the overwhelming majority of parents considered routine childhood vaccines to be important, safe and effective.’
Parents who were likely to accept the vaccine said they would do so because of worries about health complications from chickenpox and wanting their child to avoid their personal experience of chickenpox. They also expressed a high level of trust in the vaccine and the healthcare system.
The results indicated that parents preferred the idea of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine or an extra visit to the surgery visit over an additional injection when the other vaccines are given.
Those who were unlikely to accept it said their reasons included chickenpox not being a severe illness and their belief that it is preferable to catch chickenpox as a child rather than as an adult. Others cited concerns about the vaccine’s side effects.
Dr Sue Sherman, a co-lead of the study and reader of psychology at Keele University, said: ‘Although chickenpox is usually a mild illness, for some individuals it can be a severe illness, requiring hospitalisation and, rarely in children, death. Our research suggests that the majority of parents would be willing to have the vaccine for their children if the JCVI decides to recommend it for the childhood schedule.’