Almost three-quarters of UK parents would support the chickenpox vaccine being added to the childhood vaccination schedule.
The chickenpox vaccine protects against the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. It is currently not offered as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule. However, it is offered on the NHS to people in close contact with someone who is particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications.
New research from University College London (UCL) and Keele University surveyed parents about their attitudes towards varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, aiming to discover whether it should be offered routinely to children and whether they would accept it.
The study results were published in Vaccine.
Should the chickenpox vaccine be routinely offered?
The team surveyed nearly 600 parents on their thoughts towards the chickenpox vaccine, whether it should be offered on the NHS and whether they would likely accept it for their child.
The results found that 74% of people surveyed were likely to accept the chickenpox vaccine for their child if it was introduced whilst only 18.3% said they were unlikely to, and 7.7% said they were unsure.
Parents were likely to accept the vaccine for reasons such as protection from complications of chickenpox, trust in the vaccine and healthcare professionals, and want their child to avoid their personal experience of chickenpox.
Those who said they were unlikely to accept it said their reasons included chickenpox not being a serious illness, concerns about side effects, and their belief that it is preferable to catch chickenpox as a child rather than as an adult.
Combining the MMR vaccine with the varicella vaccine
The parents preferred the idea of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccines or an additional visit to the surgery, over an additional injection at the same visit when other vaccines are given.
Professor Helen Bedford said: “In our study, conducted in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was reassuring to find that the overwhelming majority of parents considered routine childhood vaccines to be important, safe and effective. If a chicken-pox vaccine is added to the schedule, the majority of parents reported they would accept it for their child.”
Dr Sherman, Reader of Psychology at Keele University, said: “Although chickenpox is usually a mild illness, for some individuals it can be a severe illness, requiring hospitalisation and, rarely in children, death. Our research suggests that the majority of parents would be willing to have the vaccine for their children if the JCVI decides to recommend it for the childhood schedule.”
The new research comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering whether the chickenpox vaccine should be offered in the childhood vaccination schedule.