Thursday May 2, 04:27 PM

Death risk from chickenpox jab
By Richard Woodman
Click to enlarge photo 

LONDON (Reuters) - Vaccinating children against chickenpox could cause
millions of adults to develop shingles, according to scientists.

A team at the Public Health Laboratory Service said on Thursday that
although vaccination would save thousands of children's lives, just as many
adults could die from the complications of shingles.

After a bout of chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant in
the body and may reactivate decades later to cause shingles, a painful rash
that typically strikes chickenpox veterans after the age of 60.

Marc Brisson and his team say their research shows that adults living with
children have more exposure to the virus and enjoy high levels of
protection against shingles.

Being close to children means that adults keep being exposed to the virus,
which acts like a booster vaccine against shingles, they believe.

But if all children were vaccinated, adults who have had chickenpox would
no longer be protected against developing shingles.

Writing in the journal Vaccine, they called for a re-evaluation of the
policy of mass chickenpox vaccination that has been introduced already in
the United States and is imminent in many other countries.

The researchers worked out a mathematical model which predicts that
eliminating chickenpox in a country the size of the United States would
prevent 186 million cases of the disease and 5,000 deaths over 50 years.

However they said it could also result in 21 million more cases of shingles
and, again, 5,000 deaths.

The PHLS said in a statement it was working out what the impact might be of
introducing a chickenpox vaccine in Britain.

"As more evidence becomes available, it will be shared with the Joint
Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which advises the
Department of Health on the immunisation schedule."