Chickenpox is often seen as a rite of passage – but should children really have to go through it? Well, almost three-quarters of parents would support a chickenpox vaccine being added to the childhood vaccination schedule.
Researchers Professor Helen Bedford of UCL Great Ormond Street and Dr Sue Sherman of Keele University surveyed nearly 600 parents on their attitudes towards a chickenpox vaccine. They asked whether it should be given routinely to all children, and whether they’d be likely to accept it for their own child.
The results found 74% of people were likely to let their child have it if it was introduced, while only one in five (18%) said they were unlikely to, and fewer than one in 10 (7%) said they were unsure.
Parents who were likely to accept the vaccine cited positive reasons such as protection from the complications of chickenpox, trust in the vaccine and healthcare professionals, and wanting their child to avoid their own personal experience of chickenpox.
Those who were not so keen said their reasons included chickenpox not being a serious illness, having concerns about side effects, and their belief that it’s preferable to catch chickenpox as a child rather than as an adult.
The results also indicate that parents prefer the idea of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine, or a separate visit to the surgery, over an additional injection at the same visit when other vaccines are given.
Prof Bedford says: “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 chickenpox vaccine is added to the schedule, the majority of parents reported they would accept it for their child.”
Dr Sherman, reader in psychology at Keele, says: “Although chickenpox is usually a mild illness, for some individuals it can be a severe illness, requiring hospitalisation and, rarely in children, death.”
The study is timely. It comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is considering whether to recommend adding the chickenpox vaccine to the routine childhood vaccination schedule.
Dr Sherman adds: “Our research suggests 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.”
It’s cheering that so many parents want their children to be protected from chickenpox with a vaccine. And that parents would prefer it to be part of a combined vaccine with MMR.