Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editorials

Childhood immunisation against varicella zoster virus

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1164 (Published 19 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1164

Rapid Response:

Should immunisation programmes take place for economic reasons?

Having read Andrew Farlow's article I would hazard that the main
reason the US immunises children against varicella zoster (chickenpox) is
economic.

The scientific argument for childhood immunisation appears to me a very
poor one as nature confers immunity to chickenpox upon the majority of
people and having the wild-type virus in the community is thought to help
reduce the incidence of herpes zoster (shingles) in later life.

Any political argument for childhood immunisation may have to rely on
society's current attitude to risk, i.e. the less risk the better. But
even people with little medical or scientific knowledge can see through
personal experience that nature is doing most of the work for us.

However, nature makes no money whereas drug companies do. Also an economy
must surely lose money if a child with working parents who cannot afford
childcare becomes ill.

Hence I think that the US immunisation programme is mostly for economic
reasons.
I do not think medical interventions with as many possible downsides as
are listed in the article can be justified by economic reasons.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 August 2008
Rowan Mclachlan
Medical Secretary
Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Norwich, Norfolk, NR6 5BE