Superdrug has become the first retailer on the British high street to offer a chickenpox vaccination.
Currently the jab is not part of the NHS routine childhood immunisation schedule, so in most cases you have to pay if you want your child to have it.
But once a child has contracted chickenpox naturally, they have immunity for life, so many parents choose to wait it out.
What is chickenpox?
According to NHS Choices, chickenpox is a common illness that mainly affects children and causes an itchy, spotty rash. Most children will catch chickenpox at some point. It can also occur in adults who didn’t have it when they were a child.
What causes chickenpox?
Chickenpox is caused by a virus that spreads very easily to people who haven’t had it before. If you have had it before, you’ll usually be immune for life.
Can you be vaccinated after being exposed to chickenpox?
The NHS says if you have been exposed to the chickenpox virus the vaccine may still successfully prevent symptoms if you are vaccinated within three days of initial exposure.
How does the chickenpox vaccine work?
It is linked to a group of vaccines referred to as ‘live’ vaccines meaning that it contains a weakened version of the virus that causes chickenpox.
So for healthy people this causes your immune system to react to the vaccine, resulting in you developing immunity against chickenpox, if you are exposed to the virus at a later date.
Who can get the chickenpox jab for free on the NHS?
The injection is currently only available on the NHS for those who are at high risk of spreading the virus to particularly vulnerable people. This includes people with weakened immune systems (as a result of HIV or treatments like chemotherapy), or non-immune healthcare workers.
Where can you buy the vaccine?
The chickenpox vaccine will be available in 58 of Superdrug’s nurse and pharmacist Health Clinic stores across the UK. You can find your nearest store using their location tool.
How much does the vaccination cost?
The vaccination is available at £65 per dose, and requires two doses to be given between four and eight weeks apart. This double dose will give your child heightened immune protection (although 90% of children will develop immunity with only a single dose).
Should parents pay for the vaccination?
Dr Clare Morrison, GP at online pharmacy MedExpress told HuffPost UK: “I’m all for the chickenpox vaccine.
“It isn’t a fatal disease, but it can be highly inconvenient and it’s never nice for children to have chickenpox - it’s painful and itchy and often scars.
“Also, if children don’t have the vaccine when young, they can catch chickenpox as adults.”
In a blog on HuffPost UK, Dr Nupur Yogarajah, debated whether or not to vaccinate her children against chickenpox or just wait for them to be infected naturally. In the end she decided to get them vaccinated.
“After nearly five years of waiting with bated breath every time a rash appeared on their soft baby skin we decided to go ahead and vaccinate,” she wrote.
“The main reason I hesitated from getting the children jabbed before, was in being unsure about the strength of immunity with the vaccine.
“Chickenpox contracted naturally generally gives you lifelong immunity. And in those who’ve had a vaccine, 95% of moderate cases are prevented and 100% of severe cases.”
“Childhood vaccination is always a controversial issue..."”
“Therein lies my primary reason for having them vaccinated; the severe cases.
“Now, I fully hold my hands up to the fact that my exposure to very unusual outcomes of illness are skewed being a doctor. I also fully accept that chicken pox is mostly a straight forward illness with limited complications.
“But, I must admit this has weighed in heavy on my decision making process.
“Childhood vaccination is always a controversial issue and I can fully understand the choice to not vaccinate for chickenpox as well.
“I realise I am fortunate to deliberate on this issue as the vaccine has to be paid for privately. On balance, for us personally we decided to go for it.”