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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Children may get chickenpox jab
Chickenpox can be fatal
The Department of Health is to consider a mass vaccination of children in England against chickenpox.

Experts have been drafted in to weigh up the benefits following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

One option is believed to be combining a chickenpox vaccine with MMR in a new four-in-one jab.

However, there is concern that a chickenpox jab would fuel a rise in cases of shingles in adults.

Initially mild fever and headaches
Crops of red spots soon appear, which develop itchy fluid-filled central blisters
After a couple of days these scab over and dry up
In rare cases associated bacterial infection can lead to potentially fatal conditions, such as toxic shock syndrome
Other complications can include pneumonia, encephalitis and inflammation of the blood vessels

Some critics are also concerned that children face a risk of being "over-vaccinated".

Children are currently recommended to have 13 vaccinations against various diseases from infancy up to the age of 18.

Ten jabs against eight diseases are given before the age of two.

A vaccine against chickenpox was licensed in the UK in 2002 but it has never been part of routine childhood vaccinations and is not currently recommended for standard use.

However, the chickenpox vaccine is routine in the US.


Chickenpox is a highly contagious virus. It is effects are usually mild in children. However, it is more serious for adults and can sometimes be fatal.

It causes about 20 adult deaths in England and Wales each year.

Among those who have called for the introduction of a chickenpox jab are Professor Anne Gershon, an expert in paediatrics at Columbia University in New York, who has argued the policy could help to save many lives.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The JCVI requested that we set up a sub-group to look into the issues of vaccinating against chickenpox.

"This work is at a very early stage. The JCVI considers a wide variety of issues around vaccination and immunisation.

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

The virus which causes chickenpox - varicella zoster - can settle in the spinal cord, and during periods when the body is run down it can trigger the painful rash known as shingles.

Chickenpox jab launched
30 Jul 02 |  Health


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