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Chickenpox Vaccine Reduces Cases By 90 Percent

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, September 03, 2008 2:19 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA & Prescription Drugs, Chickenpox, Varicella Vaccination, Children's Health, Shingles


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / immunization shot / author: loveleah

Too few parents take the chickenpox virus seriously enough to get their kids vaccinated, although researchers say the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine has reduced the occurrence in children by 90 percent, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

“The U.S. varicella vaccination program has helped to dramatically reduce incidence and related complications including deaths and hospitalizations associated with the disease,” CDC researchers said.

The chickenpox vaccine is indeed effective and needs to be adopted by more parents, say infectious disease experts.

Chickenpox cases have declined by 90 percent since the introduction of the vaccine in 1995. But, researchers say, the fact that vaccine has been so effective has falsely misled parents to believe that chickenpox is no longer a health threat.

The study found, from 1995 to 2005 the chickenpox vaccine helped to lower the number of disease related hospitalizations by more than 75 percent. And child deaths associated with the virus accounting for 50 to 60 each year, declined by 74 percent.

The effectiveness of a single dose - about 85 percent - is not enough to prevent the virus from spreading in high risk public places, like that of schools. Health officials therefore recommend adopting a two-dose schedule. But, experts warn, no vaccine is 100 percent effective all of the time.

While a dose of the varicella vaccination may prove effective – and two doses even more so- researchers say it is unlikely that we will completely eliminate the chickenpox virus in our lifetime.

The virus remains dormant in the body of seemingly healthy individuals and it can later re-emerging as shingles. Because it can hide in healthy persons for so long before appearing as an infectious disease, it will be nearly impossible to eradicate completely, says Mark Slifka, associate scientist at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University.

But, the vaccine is a good preventive measure. Parents who downplay the importance of the vaccine or fear its use, must keep in mind the risks and complications associated with the illness, said Dr. Gary Freed, director of the Division of General Pediatrics for the University of Michigan Health System.

“The public should [understand] how many deaths and hospitalizations were spared by the use of the vaccine,” he says.

The risk of the disease is far more dangerous than the risk of the vaccine.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics. #

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