JCVI rules out childhood chickenpox jabs

Childhood vaccination against chickenpox has been ruled out by the JCVI.

Herpes zoster vaccine to protect against shingles (Photograph: SPL)
Herpes zoster vaccine to protect against shingles (Photograph: SPL)

The committee said it had concluded that such a vaccination programme would be neither cost effective nor epidemiologically sound.

Incidence of varicella infection among under-fives has risen in the last two decades, prompting the JCVI to review vaccination strategies for chickenpox and shingles.

Predictions showed that a childhood immunisation programme, combined with vaccination of older people against shingles, would reduce varicella infections, the JCVI said.

However, large numbers of breakthrough infections in adults would be expected to occur as a result of a one-dose childhood schedule. Without the immunity boost from children's exposure to varicella, incidence of shingles would increase for 40-60 years after the programme.

A vaccination programme could also increase the risk to unborn children or neonates should infection occur during pregnancy.

A two-dose childhood vaccination programme would only be cost effective after 80-100 years or more, and for the first 30-50 years the programme is likely to be ‘cost ineffective', the JCVI said.

The committee has already recommended a herpes zoster vaccine for people in their 70s to protect against shingles, provided a licence vaccine can be obtained at a reasonable cost.

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