Many parents think of chickenpox as a mild illness, and for most
children it is. However it can result in serious complications such as
blood poisoning and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and even
death. This has been confirmed by research published in the Archives of
Diseases in Childhood. Over a 13 month period, in UK and Ireland, 112
children had severe chickenpox (about one per 100,000 children) and five
died. There was also one stillbirth after a pregnant woman developed
the disease. The researchers suggested that the only way to prevent this
was to introduce immunisation, ideally at the same time as the first
dose of MMR. This already happens iIn the US and a number of other
countries. In some circumstances, this is done by using a combined MMRV
vaccine for Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella. This reduces the
distress to the child and makes the programme easier to implement.
‘MMR scare’ is now well past its peak and the uptake of the vaccine is
rising. However, many parents are still concerned and it is possible
that the introduction of another live vaccine at the same time could
reverse this trend. While the introduction of the vaccine would be of
benefit, for this reason, it would seem sensible to wait a few years
before doing so.
Responding to media scares about 'overloading' a
child's immune system, Dr David Elliman, consultant in community child
health at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust said:
is no evidence to support the possibility that vaccination is overloads
the immune system. To the contrary, there is very powerful evidence
that it has no such effect.
“If the immune system was damaged by
vaccines children would catch more infections after having jabs, but
careful scientific studies have shown that they do not.
does not increase the risk of developing auto-immune diseases like
asthma, diabetes, or arthritis, as some have claimed, and studies have
shown vaccinated children are not more likely to develop these
“Although children are given more injections now than
20 years ago, the vaccines in total contain fewer proteins and are
therefore less of a challenge for the immune system to deal with.
overwhelming weight of evidence in the USA, shows that MMRV is safe,
and the number of studies demonstrating this is growing."
However Dr Elliman did say that there needs to be thought about the timetable for introducing a new vaccine.
parental confidence is still recovering after the MMR scares, it would
seem sensible to wait a little longer before introducing chicken pox to
For more information, please visit www.immunisation.nhs.uk and www.gosh.nhs.uk/immunisation.
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