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UK Hospitals To Test New Chickenpox Vaccine

Vaccines work by protecting children as well as adults from diseases caused by harmful pathogens. Some of these vaccines, however, may not work as expected that is why updating vaccines is also important.

In the United Kingdom, a new vaccine to protect kids against chicken pox started its trial in various hospitals.

Chicken pox, an illness caused by the virus known as varicella-zoster, can cause fever, red rashes, itchy spots — which become blisters.

Though the condition is considered mild and will only last for about five to 10 days, it may lead to serious health problems like encephalitis or brain inflammation, skin infections and pneumonia. All these diseases are potentially-fatal especially if they are not treated immediately.

The study will be conducted at the St. George's Hospital in south London and NIHR Wellcome Trust Southampton Clinical Research Facility. It will also take place in other sites like Oxford and Bristol.

It is estimated that the vaccine, dubbed Varilrix, gives 98 percent protection against the chicken pox virus in kids and about 75 percent in teens and adults.

The scientists will conduct the trials to test the effectiveness of the vaccine. Though the vaccine was already approved in the UK in 2013, it is still not part of the country's routine childhood vaccination schedule. At present, other countries have started using the vaccine including the United States and Germany.

"While chickenpox is often a mild illness which lasts for one or two weeks, it can still be very uncomfortable and unpleasant for children while, in the worst cases - particularly among those with underlying health conditions," said Dr. Katrina Cathie, a pediatrician and principal researcher of the study.

The study will shed light on the effectiveness of the new vaccine and whether this new versions is better than the one currently used. By updating vaccines, it will provide better protection against infections especially when viruses tend to evolve and mutate into more aggressive forms.

Chicken pox is a common childhood infection but it can also affect adults. Those who did not acquire the infection during childhood are at a higher risk of being infected. However, people who acquired the disease during childhood may also be re-infected in the form of shingles.

Photo: Partha S. Sahana | Flickr 

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