Chickenpox vaccine to be recommended for babies in Switzerland
In their new guidelines for 2023, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has recommended that babies in Switzerland be vaccinated against chickenpox. The government said that immunisations against the disease should take place nine and 12 months after birth.
Chickenpox vaccine recommended for children in Switzerland
In their new recommendations, due to be implemented on January 1, 2023, the FOPH said that the government would be recommending that babies in Switzerland be vaccinated against chickenpox at the same time they are given vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). The immunisation will be administered in two doses nine and 12 months after birth.
The new policy will mean the healthcare system in Switzerland will join other 45 other nations like Germany in recommending that children be vaccinated against chickenpox, rather than doing nothing or deliberately catching the disease. The FOPH also confirmed that a "catch-up" vaccination is recommended for people aged 13 to 39 years old who have either never had chickenpox or have never been vaccinated.
Why are Swiss health authorities recommending a chickenpox vaccine?
The FOPH explained that the vaccination campaign would reduce the number of chickenpox cases in all age groups, including older people who are at greater risk of a severe infection. In the future, authorities hoped that it would also reduce cases of shingles - a severe skin condition caused by the dormant chickenpox virus - as vaccinated children are 78 percent less likely to develop the condition.
While the disease is often mild when the person infected is young, the FOPH noted that it isn’t always harmless for children. “Out of 100.000 patients, one to two children die of complications; among those over 16, the number of deaths is around 20 per 100.000,” the FOPH noted.
Chickenpox vaccine will also reduce costs for Swiss healthcare
Health authorities argued that the change would not have a significant impact on the cost of healthcare or health insurance, as the additional cost of the vaccine would be far outweighed by the decline in serious cases. According to the FOPH, the vaccine “would decrease [cases of chickenpox] by 88 to 90 percent, that of hospitalisations by 62 to 69 percent, and that of deaths by 75 to 77 percent.” The number of visits to doctors and GPs because of mild cases of chickenpox would also be reduced.
The FOPH was quick to stress that, much like the measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, mumps, and rubella vaccines - which are recommended as part of postnatal care in Switzerland - the chickenpox vaccine is highly recommended, not mandatory.
In Switzerland, families have a right to “self-determination” when it comes to immunisation, and therefore will not be penalised by the state for not taking the jab. This means unvaccinated children, for example, are allowed to attend Swiss public school - although private institutions, like childcare services and international schools in Switzerland, are allowed to make their own rules on whether to admit unvaccinated children.
For more information about the decision, please consult the FOPH website.
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