A couple weeks ago we took my 3 year old granddaughter to the fair. While standing in line at the kiddies rides, I noticed a little girl with scabs on her face and arms and briefly wondered what had happened to her.
Fast forward a week and a half…
My granddaughter came wandering into the kitchen as we were preparing dinner and said she had bug bites that were itching. Sure enough, she had a small cluster of red spots topped by tiny water blisters on her thigh. Checking her head to toe we noticed more of these spots on her back.
Turns out it wasn’t bug bites but chickenpox! Because we couldn’t recall where she could have contracted them and all her vaccines are up to date including the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, it came as a big surprise! In hindsight, I recalled the little girl at the fair.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most people who get the varicella vaccine disease will not get chickenpox. But, if they do contract chickenpox after being vaccinated they will have a much milder case with fewer blisters and little or no fever.
That was true in my granddaughter’s case. She only had a light scattering of spots on her legs and back and no fever. Since she was still contagious as long as the spots continued to have blisters, she was unable to go to her usual story time group or play dates.
Chickenpox is a general mild disease during childhood but it can lead to complications such as skin infections, scars, pneumonia or even in rare cases, death.
Prior to the availability of a vaccine for chickenpox, there were approximately 11,000 people hospitalized each year due to complications from chickenpox.
Most school systems now require all students to have the chickenpox vaccine as well as other immunizations prior to enrolling in school.
Who Should Get the Chickenpox Vaccine?
CDC recommendations are for children who have never had chickenpox to get two doses of the vaccine.
The first dose is usually given between the ages of 12-15 months, with the second dose given between the ages of 4-6 years.
Children who have had a confirmed case of chickenpox may not need the vaccine if their antibodies for the virus are adequate. However, there is no harm in giving the vaccine to someone who has had chickenpox. Check with your child’s doctor if you have a question concerning the need for vaccination if your child develops chickenpox.
Children or others, 13 years old or older should receive two doses of the vaccine at least twenty-eight days apart.
Who Should Not Receive the Chickenpox Vaccine?
You should not receive the chickenpox vaccine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the chickenpox vaccine. People allergic to the antibiotic, neomycin should also avoid the chickenpox vaccine.
Do not receive the chickenpox vaccine or any other vaccine if you are already ill. Reschedule vaccines for a time after recovering from colds, flu or other minor illness.
Pregnant women should wait until after they have their baby to be vaccinated against chickenpox. During pregnancy avoid any contact with someone infected with chickenpox as it can cause problems to the unborn baby. Women should not get pregnant for at least a month after receiving the chickenpox vaccine.
Individuals with compromised immune systems due to HIV / AIDS, chemotherapy, or steroids should talk to their doctor about whether or not they should have the chickenpox vaccine.
Are There Risks or Side Effects to the Chickenpox Vaccine?
As with all medications or medical treatments, there are some risks and possible side effects to the chickenpox vaccine. These can range from a slight reaction at the site of the injection to allergic reactions. In extremely rare cases serious harm or even death may occur.
The chickenpox vaccine is sometimes combined with the vaccine for Mumps and measles and the combination vaccine has been shown to have a higher risk of a rash and fever than receiving the varicella alone.
Most reactions occur after the first dose. Getting the chickenpox vaccine is still considerably safer than getting the disease.
Don’t hesitate to voice your concerns to your doctor. He can give you the full information and help you decide if the vaccine is right for you and your children.
Chickenpox Vaccine: What You Need to Know, Centers for Disease Control, Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-varicella.pdf