Infant chickenpox jab supported by the RCGP

The RCGP has backed plans to vaccinate children against chickenpox as part of a four-in-one MMR vaccine.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the DoH, has called on ministers to set up a sub-group to look into the issues of vaccinating against chickenpox.

Berkshire GP and RCGP immunisation spokesman Dr George Kassianos said the plans were 'well overdue'.

'This is an infectious disease affecting at least nine out of 10 people in the UK, mainly when very young,' he told GP.

'The easiest way to introduce varicella immunisation is to incorporate it into the MMR.'

He pointed out that the four-in-one vaccine, called MMR-V, had already been developed.

However, Dr Kassianos warned that introducing a childhood chickenpox vaccine could result in an increase in the number of cases of shingles in adults.

'Adults who have already had chickenpox in childhood get repeated "boosting" by coming into contact with infected children.

'Once we introduce immunisation, this natural boosting will not be taking place.'

But as a shingles vaccine is already available for the over-50s, this should not be too big a problem, said Dr Kassianos.

However, a spokeswoman for the DoH stressed that the proposal was 'at a very early stage'.

'The JCVI considers a wide variety of issues around vaccination and immunisation,' she said.

'Any recommendation to make a change to the programme is only put forward after a lengthy and thorough consideration of all the evidence.'

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