Three quarters of UK parents support routine chickenpox vaccine for children

child receiving vaccine
child receiving vaccine

Almost three quarters of UK parents would support a chickenpox vaccine being added to the childhood vaccination schedule, finds new research led by UCL and Keele University.

The research team, led by Professor Helen Bedford (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health) and Dr Sue Sherman (Keele University), surveyed nearly 600 parents on their attitudes towards a varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, including whether it should be routinely offered to all children, and whether they would be likely to accept it for their child.

The results, published in Vaccine, found that 74% of people surveyed were likely to accept such a vaccine for their child if it was introduced, while only 18.3% said they were unlikely to, and 7.7% said they were unsure.

Parents who were likely to accept the vaccine cited reasons such as protection from complications of chickenpox, trust in the vaccine and healthcare professionals, and wanting their child to avoid their personal experience of chickenpox.

Those who were unlikely to accept it said their reasons included chickenpox not being a serious illness, having concerns about side effects, and their belief that it is preferable to catch chickenpox as a child rather than as an adult.

The results also indicated that parents preferred the idea of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccines, or an additional visit to the surgery, over an additional injection at the same visit when other vaccines are given.

Professor Helen Bedford, said: "In our study, conducted in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was reassuring to find that the overwhelming majority of parents considered routine childhood vaccines to be important, safe and effective. If a chicken-pox vaccine is added to the schedule, the majority of parents reported they would accept it for their child."

Dr Sherman, Reader of Psychology at Keele University, said: "Although chickenpox is usually a mild illness, for some individuals it can be a severe illness, requiring hospitalisation and, rarely in children, death. Our research suggests that the majority of parents would be willing to have the vaccine for their children if the JCVI decides to recommend it for the childhood schedule."

The research comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering whether to recommend adding the varicella vaccine to the childhood vaccination schedule.

The team were funded by a British Psychological Society Undergraduate Bursary to Dr Sherman and Keele Psychology student, Nicola Lingley-Heath.