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Feature Article

Chickenpox vaccine for all?

Mark J Ferson

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Abstract

Two live attenuated varicella vaccines are now available in Australia; they are approved for use in healthy people from 12 months of age. At present, the highest priorities for vaccination should be susceptible adolescents and adults, especially healthcare workers, childcare and school staff, and women planning a pregnancy.

Key Points

  • Live attenuated varicella vaccines are approved for use in healthy persons and are safe and effective in protecting against chickenpox and its immediate complications.
  • A single dose is recommended for healthy children from 12 months to 12 years of age; adolescents and adults need two doses given one to two months apart.
  • Susceptible adults and adolescents should be the highest priority for vaccination, especially if they are healthcare workers, childcare or school staff, or women planning a pregnancy.
  • Adults with a history of chickenpox or shingles can be considered immune and do not require vaccination; if the history of these diseases is negative or uncertain, serological testing to determine immunity will identify the few susceptible adults who need vaccination.
  • Vaccination of healthy children may be warranted on the basis of avoiding the rare serious complications of chickenpox and of minimising disruption and economic loss to the family, if it does not interfere with routine scheduled vaccinations.

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