Vaccinating children against chickenpox could end the dangerous chickenpox party, experts say.
The vaccines are not part of the NHS childhood immunization schedule, but the committee that advises the UK health sector on vaccinations is considering whether to recommend adding them.
About three-quarters of parents would support routinely vaccinating their children against chickenpox, according to a new study published in the journal Vaccines.
Dr Sue Sherman, author of the study and reader in psychology at Keele University, said that while chickenpox was usually mild, it could be a “serious illness” for some young people, which could lead to hospitalization and death.
For most, it causes blotchy spots, high fever, and headaches, and — because it’s more severe in adults — parents sometimes deliberately expose their children to the infection to ensure they catch it at a young age.
Study co-author Professor Helen Bedford, professor of child health at UCL, said: “This is sometimes done at the ‘chickenpox party’.”
But she cautions that it’s not recommended because, in rare cases, a chickenpox infection can lead to pneumonia, bacterial infection and brain swelling.
Children who have recently had an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus are also more likely to develop severe Streptococcus A.
Strep A cases much higher than normal this winterpossibly due to the removal of protective health measures put in place during the outbreak coronavirus disease pandemic.
What is strep A and what is invasive strep A?
Currently, the varicella vaccine is only available for those who demonstrate a clinical need, such as those who are not immune and those who have been in close contact with someone with a weakened immune system.
But in other countries, including the United States, Japan, and Australia, they are often offered to children.
Professor Bedford added: “Adding the varicella vaccine to the program will ensure that children are protected from infection.”
She added that parents can “rest assured” that it is used around the world and “has a good safety record”.
The committee investigating varicella vaccination is the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), which advises UK health authorities on who should get the COVID vaccine.