The Chicken Pox vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective, but based on the last review of the evidence in 2009, it was found not to be cost-effective for use in the NHS. It is not routinely offered to children or adults in the UK but is recommended for healthcare workers and at risk laboratory staff (who haven’t had chicken pox already and are therefore non-immune).
The vaccine is also offered to those non-immune individuals who come into close contact with individuals who might be vulnerable to chickenpox and can’t be immunised themselves because they have a weakened immune system (e.g. children on chemotherapy for some cancers). Yes, in the US, where the jab is given routinely, the incidence of chicken pox has dropped dramatically. Once a programme is initiated in a country and the disease goes away, the programme cannot be stopped as the virus will return, imported by travellers. Vaccination could only stop if the virus was completely removed from the world, as happened with smallpox in the 1970s, as a result of a successful global vaccine programme…….and could happen with polio.
If new evidence were to emerge that showed that a programme in the UK is cost-effective, it would have its greatest impact if young children were vaccinated and severe cases and complications were prevented. Programmes that target any early teens, who haven’t yet had chickenpox might also be considered to ensure that the risk of severe chickenpox in adulthood is prevented.
As with all vaccines, the potential use of chickenpox vaccines and their cost-effectiveness for the NHS is regularly reviewed as new information becomes available.