Chickenpox vaccine available for first time on the high street

Toddler with chicken pox

Superdrug has introduced a chickenpox vaccination service in 58 of its stores in an attempt to reduce hospital visits.

This is the first time a UK high street retailer has offered the service, which includes two doses of the vaccine, four to eight weeks apart, at a cost of £65 a dose.

However, Ashifa Trivedi, lead pharmacist and specialist in women and children at Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, questions whether it is fair that until vaccination is included as part of the NHS vaccination programme, some children will be able to have the vaccine, whilst others will not.

“It is fair to be excluded from vaccination because you cannot afford it?” she asks.

She also questions whether vaccination against chickenpox, caused by the varicella zoster virus, is the right way forward as, although highly contagious, the disease is usually mild in children and clears up in a week or so.

“If more people decided to vaccinate their children, the virus would no longer circulate in areas where the majority of people have been vaccinated. This could potentially leave unvaccinated children susceptible to contracting chickenpox as adults, when they are more likely to develop a more severe infection, or in pregnancy, when there is a risk of the infection harming the baby,” says Trivedi.

“Furthermore, when adults are in contact with infected children, they boost their immunity to shingles. If fewer children were to get chickenpox, immunity in adults would decrease and more cases of shingles would occur,” she adds.

The chickenpox vaccine has been available since 1974 but is not currently part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule in the UK. However, it is recommended on the NHS for healthy susceptible contacts of immunocompromised patients where continuing close contact is unavoidable (for example, siblings of a leukaemic child, or a child whose parent is undergoing chemotherapy).

Chickenpox vaccination has been part of routine childhood vaccinations in the United States since 1995.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2017, Vol 299, No 7903;299(7903):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203169

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