Should Your Child get the Chickenpox Vaccine?

Those unmistakable, itchy red bumps are a telltale sign. Your child has the chickenpox. Those bumps mean missed work and other inconveniences for you, not to mention days of missed school and discomfort for your child.

Did you know the chickenpox vaccine could prevent all that?

The 45,000 physicians of Texas Medical Association suggest that you consider the option of chickenpox vaccination for your child.

Some parents often have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine for the chickenpox virus, called varicella. Some have heard that the vaccine wears off by adulthood. The varicella vaccine's staying power is still uncertain, since the vaccine was only approved for use in the United States in 1995, and its long-term effects are still under scrutiny. However, many physicians and researchers believe the benefits of vaccinating a child for chickenpox are far more important than the possibility that a person will get the illness later in life.

"It's really important for children and young people to get the chickenpox vaccination," says pediatrician Dr. Stephen Barnett. The Centers for Disease Control and the Texas Department of Health agree. These organizations, with several experts' endorsements, have recommended that most children over 12 months to 12 years old without a history of chickenpox be vaccinated. They also recommend that people 13 and older who haven't had chickenpox or who haven't been vaccinated receive two doses of the vaccine 4 to 8 weeks apart.

The results of several studies suggest that worries about the vaccine's long-term effects might be unfounded. Though the American varicella vaccine is too new to determine its effects on lifetime immunity, the Japanese varicella vaccine has shown a protective immunity lasting at least 20 years for children. These studies also suggest that if a person who was vaccinated does get the chickenpox later in life, the symptoms are mild at best.

Also, a booster shot will likely prevent a decline in chickenpox immunity, many physicians say.

Another commonly voiced concern arises from the vaccine's stability. Varicella vaccine needs to be stored in temperatures well below freezing, and is only usable for short periods of time. But as long as the vaccine is stored correctly and carefully, these special considerations should not present a problem, says Dr. Barnett.

Side effects from the varicella vaccine are rare and minor. The vaccine may cause a redness or soreness around the area where the shot was given or may provoke a slight fever.

Without any vaccination, getting the chickenpox can be serious business. Chickenpox cases in adults are more prone to painful complications, such as the rash known as shingles, or even pneumonia, brain inflammation and death.

Even childhood chickenpox can be more than a minor annoyance. Children, though they are less at risk for complications, could still contract pneumonia or other serious illnesses from the virus.

If you are uncertain about whether or not the varicella vaccine is best for your child, seek advice from your family physician.

Last Updated On

February 07, 2012