The chickenpox vaccine could be added to Ireland’s childhood immunisation programme.
An assessment is underway on whether the vaccine should be included in the programme by request of the Department of Health and supported by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) accepted the request and today published the protocol for its newest health technology assessment (HTA) of the addition of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine to the routine childhood immunisation schedule.
The HTA will assess the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, budget impact, ethical and social aspects, and organisational changes associated with an expansion of the childhood immunisation schedule to include the chickenpox vaccination.
The findings of the assessment will then inform a decision by the Department of Health.
A number of countries already have the chickenpox vaccine as part of their routine childhood immunisation programmes, including Australia and Canada.
The vaccine will protect against varicella-zoster virus, which can cause two clinical syndromes: chickenpox, as a result of primary infection, and shingles, which typically occurs in later life due to reactivation of the virus.
Chickenpox is a common infectious disease that mainly affects children; one case of chickenpox can potentially infect 10 to 12 people.
Within EU/EEA countries, the annual incidence of chickenpox is typically equivalent to the birth cohort; the total number of births in Ireland annually is approximately 56,000.
Commenting on the assessment, HIQA's chief scientist Dr Conor Teljeur said: “A vaccine for chickenpox was first developed almost 50 years ago.
“Over the last 30 years, a growing number of countries around the world have added the chickenpox vaccine to their routine childhood immunisation schedules.
"In Ireland, the vaccine is currently recommended for non-immune individuals in certain risk groups.
"Our assessment will examine the impact of adding the vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule.”