The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommending the inclusion of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine in the UK’s childhood immunisation schedule is a significant step for public health. This decision aligns the UK with many other countries that have already integrated the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine into their routine childhood immunisation programmes.
The implementation of the chickenpox vaccine on a national scale offers several benefits:
1. Reduction in cases: Widespread vaccination among children has the potential over time to significantly reduce the incidence of chickenpox, a highly contagious disease, among children and the wider community.
2. Prevention of complications: While chickenpox is often mild, it can lead to serious complications such as secondary bacterial infections, pneumonia and encephalitis; and can be particularly severe in immunocompromised individuals. Vaccination will help reduce the risk of these complications.
3. Healthcare burden: By reducing the number of chickenpox cases, the NHS can lower the associated healthcare burden, saving resources, GP consultations, urgent care capacity and hospital beds for other important healthcare needs.
4. Economic impact: Fewer chickenpox cases mean less time off from school for children and work for parents, positively affecting the economy and individual productivity, as well as educational outcomes for children and quality of life for families.
5. Herd immunity: Vaccination contributes to herd immunity, protecting those who are not vaccinated or at higher risk of complications from chickenpox.
6. Health equity: Bringing the UK’s vaccination programme in line with other countries ensures that children in the UK benefit from the same level of healthcare protection.
The JCVI’s recommendation is based on evidence of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, making it a positive addition to the UK’s public health strategy. This decision underscores a commitment to safeguarding children’s health and reducing the impact of preventable diseases through immunisation once the governments in the UK and devolved nations accept the decision and start to implement the recommended vaccination programme.