This fantastic guide has been created to help the British public understand the Chickenpox Vaccination in more detail.
Chickenpox can be a common illness, which tends to affect children. Typically, the infection causes an itchy spotty rash, while common it’s stated that most children will ‘catch’ the illness at some stage. Equally it can also affect adults, who didn’t have the infection when they were a child.
Generally, the Chickenpox Vaccination isn’t available as a routine childhood vaccination. It’s typically only ‘offered’ on the NHS to people who are in ‘close contact’ with someone who are vulnerable to chickenpox or complications associated with the illness.
Did you know? Chickenpox was not separated from smallpox until the late 19th century. It wasn’t until 1888 that a connection to shingles was determined. The first documented use of the word chicken pox was in 1658.
What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is officially known in medical circles as ‘varicella’, it’s a highly infectious disease, which causes skin rashes and ‘itchy’ blisters. Typically chickenpox will ‘start’ on the chest, face and back, it usually spreads to the rest of the body.
Unlike other infections which are spread through poor sanitation and hygiene, chickenpox is an ‘airborne’ disease which spreads through coughing and sneezes from an infected person. Typically the initial infection occurs around two days before a rash or itchiness appears.
Even though the Chickenpox vaccine isn’t given to all children as standard on the NHS, the vaccination protects around 70% to 90% of people.
According to the British Medical Bulletin, “In many countries, routine vaccination of children is recommended but, due to cost, often not provided by universal programmes.” (Source)
The NHS state that chickenpox is ‘mild and complications are rare. Almost all children develop immunity to chickenpox after infection, so most only catch it once’.
Chickenpox occurs in all parts of the world, in 2013 there was around 140 million cases worldwide. In 2015, chickenpox resulted in over 6,000 deaths globally, however this was down from around 9,000 in 1990. Interestingly since the ‘immunisation’ programme in the USA, the number of infections has decreased by around 90%.
Who is at risk from Chickenpox?
It’s important to bear in mind that Chickenpox is ‘common’, however sometimes complications can occur, even though they’re very rare. After chickenpox has occurred most children will ‘develop’ immunity to the illness, this means they tend to only ‘catch it’ once during their life.
Specific groups can be at a greater risk of developing serious complications, these tend to include:
• Pregnant Women – Sometimes if a pregnant woman gets chickenpox, the illness can ‘spread’ to the unborn baby. In some cases this can cause birth defects, please speak to a Doctor for more information.
• People who have Weakened Immune Systems
• People who are getting treatment for Cancer
• People who have illnesses such as HIV
For more guidance on how chickenpox may affect you or somebody you know, please speak to a healthcare professional such as a Nurse or your Doctor.
How does the Chickenpox Vaccine Work?
In the UK the Chickenpox Vaccination is given as a ‘live vaccine’.
This means it will have a small amount of the virus. This will ‘stimulate’ the immune system in producing natural antibodies against the virus and make the body’s defences stronger.
The chickenpox vaccine is usually administrated as two separate injections, this typically occurs in the upper arm around four to eight weeks apart.
Chickenpox Vaccination Side Effects
The chickenpox vaccination typically cases no issues to most people; however sometimes there can be side effects. The most common include:
• A mild rash
• Swollen, Soreness and redness at the site of the injection
Typically these symptoms are regarded as ‘mild’ and will disappear within a couple of days.
In some cases, a rare serious complication of the vaccine is allergic reaction. This is officially called ‘anaphylaxis’. This typically occurs in around one in every million vaccinations.
On a yearly basis millions of chickenpox vaccines are given and according to the National Health Service there’s ‘no evidence of any increased risk’ or developing long-term medical conditions.
Complications of Chickenpox
In most cases children and adults who develop chickenpox make a full recovery; however sometimes there can be ‘serious’ complications.
Typically these are more ‘common’ in adults, newborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
Complications of chickenpox tend to include:
Skin Infections – Chickenpox can cause bacterial skin infections, this means the skin becomes swollen, painful and red.
Lung Infection – Also known as ‘Pneumonia’ – this type of infection can cause a cough, chest pain and breathing difficulties.
Pregnancy Issues – This can include the infection ‘spreading’ to the unborn baby
Shingles – Sometimes people who’ve had chickenpox may develop shingles later in life. This can sometimes cause the initial chickenpox illness to become ‘active’ once again.
If you think you have complications of chickenpox or know somebody that does, please speak to your Doctor, call NHS 111 or 999 in an emergency situation.
Remember that this website has been created for use as a ‘general guide’ only. You should never self-diagnosis yourself; please always seek professional medical advice from a Doctor. This website does not ‘substitute’ the advice, opinion or treatment of a professional healthcare worker such as a Nurse or GP.