A national advertising campaign for a chicken pox vaccine in Israel has triggered a furore among health officials.
The campaign, organised by the Israel Paediatrics Association and the Israel Family Physicians Association, is financed by SmithKline Beecham, manufacturers of Varilrix the sole brand of chicken pox vaccine approved by the health ministry there.
The ads which appear on TV, radio and in the newspapers are urging parents, at their own expense, to have their children vaccinated against chicken pox.
The campaign, which was initiated and launched without the organisers having consulted or informed relevant the government agencies, represents an ethical minefield among Israeli health officials.
It is all the more remarkable since chicken pox is a mild childhood disease and vaccination against it is of debatable value. Now, the Israeli healthy ministry fears that the high pressure ad campaign may force them to include the expensive vaccine in their state subsidised immunisation programme for children (BMJ, 2000; 321: 656).