Effectiveness of the Varicella Vaccine

chicken poxShould you or should you not, give your child the varicella vaccine?  I have more parents struggling with this decision than any other, except perhaps the MMR decision.

First let me share that varicella, while absolutely no fun to have (you are quite sick for almost a week, can’t attend school, and if you have siblings, they come down with it 11-21 days later) is rarely fatal.  Most of us over the age of 20 have had the disease.  I did care for a child who ended up dying from chickenpox around 1990 and recall with horror as that child’s sibling also almost died.   I suspect that family had a previously unknown immune disorder that made those boys more vulnerable to that virus.

Is the vaccine safe?  I would say absolutely, as I have never in over 20 years seen a single problem with it.  If I had a strong family history of autism, would I do it if it was my kid?  No.  For most everyone else, sure, but maybe not rush and do it at a year but get it done by 3 to school age. 

This study is important for a couple reasons.  First it confirms my experience that one vaccine can give very good protection, with those who get varicella after one vaccine having a mild form of the disease.  It is for that reason, I recommend you get the one shot then if you have not had a mild case by the time you are a teenager, get the booster.  The second important point made is that getting two shots totally eliminates your chances of getting chicken pox and may reduce your chances of Zoster (Shingles) later in life.  Now that would be worth it if that were true.  The reason they say “may”, I suspect, is that zoster can develop in old age (the varicella virus being dormant in your body until that time) so we won’t really know if the vaccine reduces zoster for a few decades.  

Safety is good, it works.  This is one I have no problems recommending, but if you are not afraid of the disease of chickenpox, then it’s also one I think you can put off for a while.  My official recommendation is to give it as recommended at age one with a booster later. 

 

This is a very effective vaccine.
To read the review of the study, follow this link.

Dr. Paul

 

2 comments

  • Angela

    Thank you for this post! Im wondering if one child in the family gets the vaccine, is it possible for the other children to contract chicken pox? In other words, will the vaccinated child shred the virus?

    Thank you

  • Theoretically that could happen, but only if the vaccinated child gets a mild case of chickenpox from the vaccine which is very rare. I have never seen this happen.

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