Injections for chicken pox begin

The Ministry of Health announced that the chicken pox vaccine will be included in the national immunisation programme.

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DUBAI // Children will be vaccinated against chicken pox starting tomorrow as part of the national immunisation programme, the Ministry of Health has announced.

This brings the number of vaccinations required to eight, including those for measles and polio.

The vaccine must be administered in two shots: at 12 months, then a booster at five years. It has been available since 2004 but only if prescribed or recommended by a paediatrician.

International figures show about 95 per cent of unvaccinated children under 10 have had chicken pox, which is transmitted through respiratory secretions or direct skin contact.

Dr Mahmoud Fikri, the assistant undersecretary for health policies at the ministry, said figures in the US showed "routine chicken pox vaccination is likely to save five times the investment".

Statistics from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention show eight or nine of every 10 people vaccinated are completely protected from chicken pox.

So far this year about 32,000 children in the UAE have been vaccinated. In 2010 there were 258 cases of chicken pox for every 100,000 people.

"Although chicken pox is not dangerous, it can lead to complications such as bacterial infections of the skin, lung, brain or joints," said Dr Ibrahim Al Qadi, the ministry's director of preventive medicine.

Vaccines for rotavirus, the human papillomavirus and meningococcal diseases are being considered, Dr Fikri said.