Intended for healthcare professionals


Varicella vaccination for healthcare workers

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 24 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:433
  1. Judy Breuer, professor of virology (
  1. St Bartholomew's and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London E1 1BB

    Is beneficial to patients and staff

    In December 2003, the Oka vaccine to prevent chickenpox (varicella) was licensed in the United Kingdom for use in susceptible healthcare workers.1 One year later a survey of consultant virologists, who are members of the Clinical Virology Network and who between them provide virology services for 38 trusts located around the United Kingdom, suggests that fewer than half of the trusts have implemented the policy (J Breuer, personal communication, 2004). Lack of funds or problems within occupational health departments are perceived as the main obstacles. Failure to protect healthcare workers against this potentially serious infection has health and safety implications both for themselves and the patients they care for.

    The initiative was designed to achieve two main objectives. The aim was, firstly, to reduce the risk of exposure of vulnerable patients to staff with varicella, and, secondly, to reduce the high costs incurred after an exposure to varicella zoster virus. Brief mention was also made of the protection that would be afforded to healthcare workers themselves. No funding was attached to this initiative but the UK health departments said that, on the basis of health economic studies,2 the policy would be overall cost neutral and may be cost saving …

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