chickenpox Vaccination needed for the high risk teens

Source_The Star letter: Vaccinate the high risk teens

WITH our prime minister recovering from chickenpox, a fair amount of discussion on the subject has come up in the press. A renowned dermatologist was quoted in The Star on Nov 3 as saying that vaccinating against chickenpox will not be of much benefit unless targeted at susceptible groups.

The paediatric community begs to differ on this issue as the susceptible group makes up 30% to 40% of all normal adults aged 21-30 years (as shown in serological tests on 2,450 and 1,000 individuals in Malaysia in 1991-93 and 2001-03).

It has been shown that universal chickenpox vaccination in the US has significantly reduced morbidity and mortality related to complications of the disease.

The complications in adults affected by chickenpox tend to be more severe with skin scarring and sometimes loss of vision and brain inflammation.

Infection of a mother in the first half of pregnancy may result in congenital varicella syndrome with deformed limbs, abnormal head size and mental retardation in the newborn.

Infection in very late pregnancy results in severe neonatal chickenpox that has the potential of being life threatening.

There are many more complications that are seen by paediatricians and physicians, enough for us to propose two-dose chickenpox vaccination for all children.

At present, private practitioners are offering the vaccine to children but there is a large group of teenagers who attend the National Service every year who are prone to the infection due to the close proximity of youths involved in the training programme.

While we understand that universal chickenpox vaccination for children will cost the Government a great deal of money, we should also bear in mind the complications, physical, emotional and economical, of the disease that is often thought of as being mild.

Those at highest risk are the National Service teens huddled up in camps all over the country for weeks together.

These youths should be protected with the vaccine, while inclusion of the vaccine in the national immunisation programme can be considered in the future.

DATUK DR ZULKIFLI ISMAIL,

Past president,

Malaysian Paediatric Association.

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