Superdrug now offers chickenpox vaccinations: But should the jab be available to all on the NHS?

A chickenpox vaccine is now available on the High Street [Photo: Rex]

Superdrug has become the first retailer on the British high street to offer a chickenpox vaccination.

At the moment the jab is not part of the UK’s routine childhood vaccination schedule, which means it is currently only available on the NHS for those who are at high risk of spreading the virus to particularly vulnerable people.

This includes those with weakened immune systems – as a result of HIV or treatments like chemotherapy – or non-immune healthcare workers.

But Superdrug has now made it available in selected Health Clinics across the country at a cost of £65 per dose. Two doses – four to eight weeks apart – are recommended to give heightened immune protection, however the NHS states that nine out of 10 children vaccinated with a single dose will develop immunity against chickenpox.

Chickenpox is an incredibly common illness that is estimated to infect about 65 per cent of children in Britain before their fifth birthday. It is caused by a highly contagious virus (called Varicella Zoster) normally caught during childhood.

Although not harmful to most of those who catch it, chickenpox can be unpleasant as it also carries symptoms such as an itchy red rash of spots and blisters and a fever.

While other symptoms could include tiredness, nausea, headache, muscle ache and loss of appetite.  In most cases, the symptoms tend to subside after one week, but chickenpox can become dangerous if caught by patients with an impaired immune system, newborn babies and pregnant women.

For many of us having chickenpox as a child was almost like a rite of passage. Who can forget dosing up on Lucozade while having Calomine slathered all over their body?

If you haven’t suffered from chickenpox as a child, it is still possible to contract it as an adult and chickenpox tends to be more severe in adults with increased risk of pneumonia, hepatitis and encephalitis. For this reason some parents actively hope their children will contract the disease at an early age, with some going so far as to hold chickenpox parties.

But while it is true to say that once you’ve contracted chickenpox you should immune to it for life, one in three who have had chickenpox will go on to develop shingles later in life.

Some parents believe chickenpox can be so unpleasant the vaccine should be available to all on the NHS, so Superdrug’s move to introduce the jab will come as a welcome addition.

Would you give your children the chickenpox jab? [Photo: Antonprado/123RF]

Commenting on the new jab Dr. Pixie, Superdrug’s Health and Wellbeing Ambassador said: “Chickenpox is often seen as a rite of passage in childhood resulting in anything from a very mild to a more serious infection in different people. Even in straightforward cases spot picking can lead to long term scarring which can linger long after the infection is gone.

“A chickenpox immunisation has been available for many years but not on the high street until now. Having suffered from severe chicken pox at the age of 19 I would far rather have undergone the vaccine than be struck down with the infection!”

An immunisation against chickenpox has routinely been offered to children under the age of 13 in the US for over 20 years. This has had a dramatic effect on the number of clinic and hospital visits there.

“We’re delighted to be the first high street retailer to offer a vaccination service against one of the most common childhood illnesses; chickenpox,” said Nicola Hart, Head of Healthcare Services at Superdrug. “Its availability at our nurse clinics and pharmacies across the UK enables customers to have their vaccination at a convenient high street location.”

To make an appointment you can call Superdrug’s booking line on 03331 223 523, or to find out more visit the website.

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