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Chickenpox jab could be added to childhood immunisation schedule

HIQA is to publish an assessment of such a move on the request of the Department of Health.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE HEALTH INFORMATION and Quality Authority (HIQA) is considering the addition of the chickenpox vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule.

HIQA is to publish an assessment of such a move on the request of the Department of Health, supported by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

It will examine the clinical effectiveness, cost effectiveness, budget impact, ethical and social aspects of expanding the childhood vaccination schedule to include the chickenpox vaccine.

The vaccine inoculates against the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles. Chickenpox is a common infectious disease which mainly affects children.

Shingles typically occurs later in life due to reactivation of the virus.

One case of chickenpox can potentially infect 10 to 12 people.

Dr Conor Teljeur, HIQA’s Chief Scientist, said in a press statement: “A vaccine for chickenpox was first developed almost 50 years ago. Over the last 30 years, a growing number of countries around the world have added the chickenpox vaccine to their routine childhood immunisation schedules.

“In Ireland, the vaccine is currently recommended for non-immune individuals in certain risk groups. Our assessment will examine the impact of adding the vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule.”

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that routine chickenpox immunisation for children should be considered in countries where chickenpox is an important public health burden and there are sufficient resources to vaccinate at least 80% of the population on an ongoing basis.

Within the EU, the annual incidence of chickenpox is typically equivalent to the birth cohort. The total number of births in Ireland annually is approximately 56,000.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has also recommended introducing childhood immunisation for chickenpox, but only after countries have conducted their own assessments.

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