Chickenpox Takes A Hit
Jul 28, 2011

Earlier this week, a study was published in Pediatrics that documents the impact of the varicella vaccine has had on chickenpox deaths in the US.  The new report indicates that during
the 12 years of the mostly 1-dose US varicella vaccination program, the mortality rates for varicella declined as much as 88 – 97% (depending on the selected age group).   In conclusion,  it’s expected that with the current 2-dose program, that there is hope for ever greater success and the potential for the most severe outcomes to be eliminated.
While this certainly sounds like good news, it didn’t take long before the vaccine critics put their spin on the report.  Their criticism was often centered around the specific number of deaths that were prevented.  The study indicates that

“in the last 6 years analyzed (2002-2007) a total of of 3 deaths per age range were reported among children aged 1 to 4 and 5 to 9 years, compared with an annual average of 13 and 16 deaths, respectively, during the prevaccine years. “

Apparently, these numbers are just not significant enough for some to recognize the benefit of vaccination.
However, what the vaccine critics fail to remember is that earlier this year, another Pediatrics article analyzed the data for varicella vaccination between 2000 and 2006 and compared it to the information from the prevaccination erea of 1988-1995.  What was revealed was that varicella vaccinations may have prevented as many as 50,000 hospitalizations. Additionally, surveys in 2005 showed a 53% to 94% reduction in varicella compared to the same prevaccination era, all while the vaccination coverage was only about 65%.
Given this information, it’s easy to acknowledge that the varicella vaccine can not only be credited for reducing deaths, but also reducing the overall number of cases, hospitalizations and direct medical costs associated with the illness.
While there will always be those who argue that chickenpox is not a serious or dangerous disease, it’s important that parents realize that varicella can cause severe complications that result in a lifetime of pain, as seen in Adam’s story below.
Thanks to the efforts of PKIDS and Shot by Shot, this video is an effective reminder that even though many people have managed to suffer through chickenpox, relatively unscathed, the fact remains that this disease can be devastating to some.  Why chance hospitalizations, severe complications or even death? While a handful of parents seek to obtain a potentially dangerous “natural” disease for their children by bringing them to “pox parties” advertised on Facebook and in various online groups, the official recommendation of the CDC and the AAP is to vaccinate your children and protect them from a disease that can be so uncomfortable and unpredictable.
I have gladly chosen vaccination over pox parties for my children.  How about you?

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6 responses to “Chickenpox Takes A Hit”

  1. Venna says:

    My youngest two received the chicken pox vaccine and I’m so thankful I won’t have to watch them suffer through it. My older four children got chicken pox before the vaccine was available. Other then that one shot they were all fully immunized. While they all survived and appear to have not had serious complications, it wasn’t easy to watch them suffer through it and be helpless to help them. My fourth born was 9 months old when he got it, normally the most mellow and cheerful baby I’ve ever seen. He was so miserable he cried all the time and didn’t want me to touch him because that irritated it. My third born got pox in his ears and they became infected and after not healing two weeks after the rest of his pox were gone, we went to urgent care and found he had an infection. He was put on antibiotics and we were told it was a good thing we caught it then. If we had waited any longer it could have spread to other parts of his body.
    Something I learned recently that I didn’t know before, chicken pox is a form of herpes. I didn’t know this and I don’t think many other people (other then those in the medical profession) know it either. I wonder how many parents would be so quick to take their children to a pox party and expose them if they knew it was herpes they were exposing their child to?

  2. April Murray says:

    My three children were exposed to an adult who contracted pox, but didn’t know it at the time. We thought the adult had blisters from sun exposure, as she was in the sun skiing all day the day before and just had blisters on her face and neck at the time. Needless to say, I had to scramble to the immunization cards after we learned it was indeed pox. My oldest I knew had the vaccine. My middle child, I wasn’t sure, as she hadn’t been up to date with her vaccines and my youngest who was 18 months at the time, we were scared to death, because my mommy brain just couldn’t remember. After a call to the doctor and waiting to hear back, it was confirmed…my middle daughter never had the vaccine. Within days she was covered with hundreds of blisters and was so uncomfortable, it was hard to watch. After 2 days of the blisters coming and coming, she began to scream in pain whenever I would apply the Calamine lotion. Then on day 3 she complained she couldn’t swallow. When I looked into her mouth, I discovered she had multiple blisters in her throat and mouth. She couldn’t drink or eat, so off to the E.R. we went. She was given fluids and I was told she had Cellulitis, a skin infection around several of the blisters, which is very painful. They prescribed a universal herpes medication, to stop the virus from spreading even more, as she certainly had a BAD case of the chicken pox. Plus, they gave her an antibiotic for the Cellulitis infection. It took her over 3 weeks to recover. I WISH I would have been on top of her vaccines. I WISH she would have been vaccinated!

  3. Twyla says:

    Our first two children came down with full-blown cases of chicken pox before the vaccine existed. About ten days of discomfort, with no complications. Our third child received the varicela vaccine at the same time as the MMR. A few days later she spiked a fever and had a seizure. We took her to the emergency room. Luckily my mom happened to be visiting so both my husband and I were able to go together. Our daughter was sluggish and out of it for a few hours, with continuing fever. She gradually came out of this trance-like zone but continued to have high fevers for a few weeks. She has never had any other seizures and nobody else in our family has ever had a seizure. Thank goodness we did not give her any additional vaccines at the same time. Hannah Poling received the MMR, DTaP, varicela, Hib, and polio vaccines all at once and was never the same again.
    h t t p : / / w w w .
    And thank goodness that our daughter was not especially susceptible to neurological injury, and made a full recovery. I recognize that there is a rare risk of complications from chicken pox, but there are risks of complications from the vaccine as well. I’m not against vaccines, but I think our current program is out of balance and needs to acknowledge that vaccines do have a down side. That down side needs to be much better understood. This is science and medicine, not ideology. Medical treatments and drugs have known side effects, contraindications, and too much can be an overdose. In order to accurately weigh the risks and benefits of vaccines we need to understand the risks of the vaccines as well as the risks of the diseases.

  4. Twyla says:

    re: “Apparently, these numbers [reduction of deaths from chicken pox from 29 to 6] are just not significant enough for some to recognize the benefit of vaccination.”
    Yes, to understand the benefit you would need to have accurate data on the adverse effects of the vaccine.

  5. melissa says:

    well one thing can be said is that vaccines are improving the quality of human life to a certain extent.

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