Most people catch chickenpox in childhood and tend to have a mild illness, but it can also occur in adults who have not previously been infected and tends to be more severe.
An expert scientific committee advising the British government recommended for the first time on Tuesday that children should be immunised with the chickenpox vaccine.
The statement comes decades after the shots were made widely available in other countries, including the US, Canada and Australia.
In Britain, those who want to be immunised against the disease have to pay about £150 (€172).
In a statement, Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that children between 1 year and 18 months should be offered two doses of the vaccine, in a shot that also combines protection against measles, mumps and rubella.
“For some babies, young children and even adults, chickenpox or its complications can be very serious, resulting in hospitalisation and even death,” said Andrew Pollard, chair of the expert vaccine group in a statement.
Pollard said that "decades of evidence" of the vaccine’s effectiveness from other countries demonstrate the vaccine’s safety; the US was the first country to introduce an immunisation program against chickenpox in 1995.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes chickenpox cases in the country as “rare,” estimating there are fewer than 150,000 cases and 30 deaths every year.
British experts have previously estimated there are more than 650,000 cases of chickenpox in England and Wales.
Vaccines can offer almost complete protection
Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease that mostly affects children and can cause an itchy rash, blisters and fever. Symptoms usually last about a week, but in rare cases, the virus can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis and even death. Two doses of the vaccine offer more than 90 per cent protection against the disease.
The chickenpox vaccine recommendation will next be considered by the government.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has long said that introducing the chickenpox vaccine might leave some adults vulnerable to shingles if unvaccinated children catch the virus as adults, which can be more severe than chickenpox.
Experts noted, however, that Britain’s government offers the shingles vaccine to adults at risk of the disease.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, deputy director of public health programmes at Britain’s Health Security Agency, said the new chickenpox vaccine recommendations would “help make chickenpox a problem of the past.”