Q: My daughter has recently started nursery and I am terrified she is going to develop chickenpox when it next breaks out at the nursery. I have seen how horrible it is and don't want her to go through it. Should I get her vaccinated?
A: There is no straight forward answer to this, and the best course of action is to make an appointment with your GP and ask for some guidance on the pros and cons of the chickenpox vaccine. In the meantime, there are a few points you need to bear in mind.
First of all, the chickenpox vaccine is licenced in the UK, but is not part of the routine immunisation schedule. There are some cases where the vaccine is advisable, but this is usually reserved for individuals with serious medical conditions. In a healthy child, the vaccine is not considered necessary.
There are two key reasons for this. First of all, chickenpox is an unpleasant disease, but in the vast majority of cases it clears itself with no long term side effects. So you don't need to worry about it being as threatening to your daughter as other conditions such as measles.
Secondly, by allowing the child to contract chickenpox, this actually acts as a booster to an adult's immune system. While 90 per cent of adults are immune to chickenpox, the virus does lay dormant inside the body. When the body is re-exposed to the chickenpox virus via an infected child, it boosts the adult's immune system and protects against shingles, the disease that the dormant virus causes if it is reactivated.
This is an immunity cycle that your daughter will benefit from once she herself has experienced chickenpox and developed her own antibodies to it.
However, if you still feel uncomfortable with your daughter contracting chickenpox, do seek medical advice to ensure that you make a fully informed decision.
Did you request the chickenpox vaccine?