Image copyright AFP Image caption The vaccine is now available in 50 countries around the world
The first privately developed mass vaccination programme for the deadly form of chickenpox has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Academics have found the vaccine is safe, effective and does not pose any threat to adults or the fetus.
Co-founder, consultant and Pfizer veteran Rick D’Aveni says it is the “first new formulation for more than 30 years”.
The vaccine is now in 50 countries, in addition to Europe, the US and parts of Africa and Asia.
The news comes ahead of the International Vaccine Access Center’s World Vaccine Congress.
In a release on the Pfizer website, the company stated: “This improved formulation more effectively protects against childhood varicella (chickenpox) infection, with fewer side effects and shorter recovery times. This makes the vaccine even more available to populations in developing countries with limited access to immunisation.”
Charitable contributions helped fund the vaccine research.
How it works
The vaccine, co-developed by Pfizer and the Dutch vaccine company Novartis, was originally created for people aged 65 and over.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption There are an estimated 350,000 cases of chickenpox in the US every year
It exploits the body’s natural defenses against the disease.
Vaccines try to replicate the body’s natural immune system response. In theory, this should make the person more immune to infectious diseases – as well as giving them a greater chance of getting better.
In immunology, the term is “gelling plasma”, where various immune cells present with an infection kill off the bacteria.
Image copyright AFP Image caption A sore and red rash looks like chickenpox
While there are several types of chickenpox, the one being developed is known as juvenile varicella virus type-19, or CMV-19.
This outbreak virus is particularly virulent and it attacks and over-stimulates the immune system, causing many young children to develop serious complications.
It can lead to chronic inflammation of the skin in the eyes and tissue around the mouth and nose.
Image copyright AFP Image caption The condition can be serious – and permanent – for people aged under 10
Children have to get the vaccine every 12 months, and their parents then are supposed to get it every year.
At some point during this period, around 5% of individuals with chickenpox will get something called cytomegalovirus (CMV).
This can be extremely dangerous for adults – because the cells in their immune system that are supposed to kill the virus are weakened and then attack them, resulting in a bout of meningitis.
This is why, despite a number of vaccines being developed over the past 30 years, and several interventions available, about half a million children still get serious complications each year from their chickenpox.
In 2011, about 350,000 cases of chickenpox were reported in the US.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends getting a two-dose series (after 12 months) and because it is effective at preventing outbreaks, they also say the vaccine is safe, affordable and affordable.
Saved the lives of kids
A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 showed two doses of the CMV-19 vaccine protected young children from CMV.
Around 2.5 million babies – from six months to one year – were vaccinated.
Pfizer added that “all of the babies that received CMV-19 immediately after birth had severe CMV reactivation”.
It found less than one per cent had serious CMV reactivation and none had chickenpox.
No new complications have been reported in research as yet.
Professor Francois Blondeau, Pfizer EMEA
Ph: +33 6 53 03 54 71
Mob: +33 6 53 03 55 56
Daniela Colucci, Novartis
Ph: +33 6 93 22 75 22
Mob: +33 5 67 0 11 16
Kate Bell – AstraZeneca (D) – [email protected]
Camila Curren – Bayer (U) – [email protected]