Babies and toddlers will be offered chickenpox vaccines under new recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

A catch up programme for older children will also be offered. 

Chickenpox cases were significantly reduced during the pandemic due to social restrictions, meaning there is currently a larger pool of children than usual without immunity. 

The JCVI said the vaccine should be added to the childhood immunisation programme, with a dose at 12 months and 18 months. 

Although relatively mild for most children, chickenpox and its complications can cause severe illness, hospitalisation and, in very rare cases, death, health officials said.

Data from countries with similar programmes suggests the vaccine would dramatically reduce circulating chickenpox and prevent most severe cases in children.

The committee has submitted its recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care, which will take a final decision on whether to implement a programme.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, Chairman of the JCVI, said: “Chickenpox is well known, and most parents will probably consider it a common and mild illness among children. But for some babies, young children and even adults, chickenpox or its complications can be very serious, resulting in hospitalisation and even death.

“Adding the varicella vaccine to the childhood immunisation programme will dramatically reduce the number of chickenpox cases in the community, leading to far fewer of those tragic, more serious cases. 

“We now have decades of evidence from the US and other countries showing that introducing this programme is safe, effective and will have a really positive impact on the health of young children.”

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, Deputy Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, said: “Introducing a vaccine against chickenpox would prevent most children getting what can be quite a nasty illness – and for those who would experience more severe symptoms, it could be a life saver.

“The JCVI’s recommendations will help make chickenpox a problem of the past and bring the UK into line with a number of other countries that have well-established programmes.”

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