The UK is often cited in discussions about the chicken pox vaccine. After all, they are a perfectly developed country, they even speak (vaguely) the same language as the US and the NHS's chicken pox policy spells out what (US) vaccine critics have known all along: the disease is harmless in children and vaccinating against it will increase the incidence of shingles in the older population.
The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the UK childhood vaccination programme, because experts think that introducing a chickenpox vaccination for children could increase the risk of shingles in older people. ...
Chickenpox is usually a mild illness, particularly in children.
This view has been repeatedly challenged. The BBC claimed cost as one major reason the NHS doesn't provide the varicella vaccine and cited Dr David Elliman, immunisation expert at the the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), stating that MMR fears need to be overcome in the UK before a further live viral vaccine could be successfully introduced (more suffering due to the Wakefield/MMR/autism manufactuversy):
"The chickenpox vaccine is definitely desirable, and I think it it will happen, but unfortunately I don't think we are ready for the debate yet - not until we get MMR rates back where they need to be. We need to win that one first."This is particularly cynical since more patients are dying of chicken pox in England and Wales every year than from pertussis, mumps, measles and hib combined.
In the meantime, children are either protected by a varicella vaccine purchased privately from a travel clinic (if parents are 1. aware of the option and 2. tenacious enough to find a clinic 3. well off enough to afford this), or they have to suffer through chicken pox. Elana had to have chicken pox and while her brother, who had them first, had a mild case, Elana developed pox in her lungs and died. Just like that:Mortality from chickenpox is not negligible. During
1995/7, 81 deaths were recorded by the Office for
National Statistics. However, we received 119 certifi-
cates that mentioned chickenpox or varicella. After
detailed inquiries, we estimated that at least 75 were
genuine cases of chickenpox. This suggests at least 25
deaths from chickenpox annually. In 1996/7 there were
seven certified deaths from whooping cough, mumps,
measles, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) men-
ingitis in England and Wales compared with 67 from
The UK Department of Health touted the party line:
We wrote to the UK government but the Department of Health says severe cases of chickenpox infection are rare and occur mostly in immuno-compromised children. However, I can say from witnessing it first-hand that my daughter was fit and healthy before she picked up the virus. In fact, Elana only ever needed to see a doctor when she was having routine immunisations. I know some other parents who have had the same experience.Elana's mum is now spreading awareness of the potential dangers of chicken pox and the availability of the vaccine. It is striking that in the UK, the vaccine is such a well-kept secret that even she, as a nurse, was not aware of it. So: help her - don't let the death of her precious daughter have been wasted. Talk about the vaccine as a real option, tell your neighbours, your GP, your MP, post it on Mumsnet and other fora.