BP targets threat to GP workload
Discussions over the introduction of routine vaccination for chickenpox may be put on hold after new evidence suggested rates of the disease are declining sharply.
Consultation rates for chickenpox fell from around 1,000 cases per 100,000 in 1986 to just 500 in 2001, according to the analysis of 30 general practices in Wales.
Rates of shingles, however, remained roughly constant at around 200 cases per 100,000 consultations. And there was no fall in rates of chickenpox in under-fives, although the study, published in Archives of Diseases in Childhood (October), said this could be due to increased pre-school mixing and earlier school entry.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has been seriously considering the introduction of varicella vaccination, which in the US has saved $100 million in hospitalisation costs since 1995.
But lead researcher Dr Gwen Lowe, of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre in Wales, said adding varicella to the child schedule would be premature and more studies needed to be done. 'If our results indicate increasing population immunity, an alternative strategy would be to selectively test and immunise those at high risk,' she said.