We now have a safe and effective vaccine for chickenpox. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends the varicella vaccination (Varivax® - Merck) for all children, starting at age 12 months. Up to 13 years old, the child receives one shot at a year and a booster at age five; after age 13 two shots one to two months apart are given. The vaccine has
proven to be very safe - only 1 in 100,000 children had any
significant reaction associated with the immunization.
Objections to the chickenpox vaccine I hear:
|"The immunity will not be lifelong."
||This is probably true, at least for a significant portion of the population. For that reason, and because some shots just don't "take" properly, we now give the booster at age 5.
|"Will recipients of the vaccine have a higher incidence of shingles?"
||The experience with the vaccine has been a vastly lower incidence of shingles - the risk of shingles is only about 1% of the rate for kids who have the natural disease
|"I am afraid I am not immune (or Aunt Sally is not immune...). I am afraid I will catch chickenpox from my child if he has the shot."
||Infectivity from children who receive the shot is apparently very low. Which would you rather face? Exposure to your child after a shot which might at worst produce 20-50 sores and would not involve significant respiratory transmission risk - or exposure to a full blown case of wild type chickenpox virus in your home (probablility of getting the disease 95%)