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Chickenpox Vaccine Important for Infants & Children to Receive

Katlyn Joy |10, August 2014


Chickenpox used to be considered a rite of passage, a hallmark of childhood. Most of us endured itching, and possibly a stray scar left when we did exactly what we were told not to do; scratch. Chickenpox is highly contagious, and results in a rash of up to hundreds of blisters, fever, fatigue and intense itching.

However, chickenpox is not a harmless illness for many people. Those who are most vulnerable are infants, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Adults who get chickenpox often have a much more serious case.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prior to the immunization for the varicella virus, each year 4 million people would get chickenpox. Of those, up to 13,000 people required hospitalization and up to 150 people would die of the illness annually.

Complications from the illness can include pneumonia, skin infections and even brain swelling. Other problems from varicella include bleeding problems, sepsis, dehydration, strep infections, toxic shock syndrome, and bone or joint infections.

Why Vaccinate?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the chickenpox vaccine is highly effective, protecting 8 to 9 out of every 10 persons immunized. The vaccine virtually always prevents severe illness. For the few who do get the illness, it is much milder involving far fewer lesions, usually 50 or less, little or no fever, few other symptoms and lasting only a few days.

There are secondary benefits to immunizations for the population, as well. When community members who are able to be vaccinated receive the immunization, the vulnerable people in the society such as elderly, very young infants and pregnant women, are more protected from getting chickenpox as well.

After the vaccine was recommended in the US in 1995 for infants and children 12 months of age and older, a big drop in infections was seen. In fact, between 1995 to 2008, a 90 percent decrease in the infection of infants was seen, despite the children still being too young to be immunized.

This is called herd immunity when enough people are immunized and all members of the community are better protected from the illness.

Who Should Get the Vaccine?

The CDC recommends infants get their first dose of the vaccine between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years of age. Those 13 and older who have not been previously vaccinated are had the chickenpox virus, should get two doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart.

If you or your child has only had one vaccination, and has not had the chickenpox illness, talk to your physician about if you should get another dose to be properly protected.

What to Expect with the Immunization for Chickenpox

Remember, the risks from getting the illness are far more serious than risks from the vaccination. However, certain side effects can occur. Typically, the only symptoms are tenderness, fever, fatigue and a mild version of the illness at most. However, occasionally a rash can occur up to a month following the vaccine. Rarely, an allergic reaction or a febrile seizure can happen.

Following immunization, you can usually administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen to your child to help prevent any discomfort or possible fever. Ask the doctor if it's OK and the recommended dose for your child.

Who Shouldn't Get the Chickenpox Vaccine?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the following people should not receive the varicella vaccine to protect against chickenpox.

  • Those who had a severe reaction to a previous vaccination for varicella.
  • People with immune problems, such as AIDS or HIV or lowered immunity due to chemotherapy treatments.
  • Anyone who has received a blood transfusion or other blood products in the previous 5 months.
  • Cancer patients receive x-ray, radiation, chemo or other cancer drugs.
  • Those who take prednisone or other steroid treatments or other immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Pregnant women should not receive the vaccine.
  • Anyone who is seriously ill.
  • Those allergic to neomycin.
  • If you are allergic to gelatin, talk to your doctor to get a gelatin-free version of the vaccine.

Related Articles

Guide to the Chickenpox Vaccine

Too Many Vaccines for Babies?

The Diseases That Baby Immunizations Prevent

Court Ordered Vaccinations?

What You Should Know about Enterovirus-68


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