Last week it was announced that a high-street shop and pharmacy will be offering the chicken pox (Varivax) vaccine in 58 of their stores. This subject has had mixed reactions online with various headlines and opinions coming out. This has led us to take the opportunity to discuss the following two points:

  1. Responding to potentially misleading and scare mongering headlines.
  2. To review whether this type of service (vaccinations) should be given in a high-street shop setting.

Misleading Headlines & Facts

With every child vaccine, the positives must be weighed up against the negatives and then a decision made by the parents of the child. However, being informed with the correct facts and statistics is crucial to being able to make that decision appropriately.

“pharmacy to sell chicken pox vaccine, despite warnings that doing so could lead to more people contracting chickenpox in adulthood”

“The NHS says a routine childhood chickenpox vaccine would raise the risk of more serious infections in adults”

The above headlines mention that having the vaccine would raise the risk of infections (mainly shingles) in adults but let’s have a look at some research from the USA, UK and worldwide:

  • Herd immunity extends protection to infants too young to be vaccinated and unvaccinated adults (source)
  • In the USA, after introduction of vaccine in 1995, the number and rate of annual chicken pox related hospitalisations declined by 75% by 2001 (source)
  • The public health value of varicella (chicken pox) vaccination in lowering morbidity and mortality due to VZV (chicken pox virus), particularly in vulnerable population groups, is well established (source)
  • Worldwide there are 140 million cases, 4.2 million hospitalisation cases and 4,200 deaths per year from the chicken pox virus (source)
The Argument

The argument that has been produced against the above statistic is that due to the NHS not giving this vaccination as part of its routine childhood immunisations, may cause more people to be at risk. The people mainly at risk are adults who haven’t had the virus or the virus has lay dormant in their body and a decline in the body’s response to the immunity of the virus causes shingles in later life.

Children as Living Vaccines

The question is; should we use our children and their potential suffering to give adults a less likely chance of developing shingles even though there is a vaccine for that illness too?  A good article on this argument can be found here.

Chicken pox may be considered a non-life threatening disease (in most cases) but the weeks of fever, tiredness, nausea, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite and the itchy red rash of spots and then blisters is horrible to experience. If you could stop your child from feeling this way, would you not consider it?

Vaccinations in a High-Street Setting

As with any vaccine there are risks, and giving this to a child in a setting that is not set up for a negative reaction could have serious consequences. In a GP setting there are trained doctors with CPR skills and other available equipment (defibrillator) just in case a child does have a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Making such decisions for your child can be overwhelming and daunting but if you have the right information you can make an educated choice for them. Make sure the high-street store/pharmacy has a process like the one below, just in case of a negative reaction.

Kalmed Clinic Child Vaccination Process

An example of how Kalmed Clinic is set up for this type of service and the standard process for any child vaccination is as follows:

  1. Full history taken of child regarding past medical history, vaccination status, previous vaccination reactions, allergies (including allergies and specific allergies to neomycin or gelatine for varivax), specific immune compromise and any family history of immune deficiency.
  2. Ensure child feeling clinically well and no active infection, check of temperature and general examination.
  3. Full resuscitation equipment ready and displayed in case of a negative reaction.
  4. Post vaccination observation in clinic room for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Post vaccination advice regarding side effects, post-vaccination paracetamol advice and ‘safety netting’ to contact clinic and/or medical staff should any problems arise.

If you have any questions about this blog or would like to discuss the chicken pox vaccine, please do not hesitate to contact us and speak with Dr Lifson.