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Chicken Pox Vaccine

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Chicken pox is a mild viral disease, most commonly experienced by children. A life long immunity is developed by having the disease, and it is easier to cope with the disease when young than as an adult.

So, why then is there a vaccine for Chicken pox, and why is it recommended by health officials?

What are the facts?

Chicken pox is caused by a virus called Varicella-zoster virus and is highly contagious. It is characterised by a rash of red blisters across the body, sometimes accompanied by fever, headache, fatigue and tummy aches. The rash is itchy and contains fluid that spreads the virus to other people if touched.

Varivax (the vaccine for Varicella) was approved by the US Food and Drug Association in March 1995 and has been in use in Australia about as long. The vaccine was developed in Japan over 25 years ago and has been thoroughly tested. It is a live attenuated vaccine; it includes the real virus in an altered form to initiate an immune response.

Each year in Australia, there are 240,000 cases of chicken pox and about 1,200 of them are hospitalised. Two out of every three of those hospitalised are children and many of the average 4.2 deaths per year are also children. There are also 11 deaths and many hospitalisations each year for shingles; shingles is the painful reactivation of the chicken pox virus years later. Shingles occurs in about 15% of adults having had chicken pox previously.

Women in the early stages of pregnancy can pass the disease onto their foetus with damaging results. Catching the disease in the days before and after giving birth can lead to newborn chicken pox, also a life threatening condition.

Chicken pox carries a 5 – 10% complication rate; meaning five to ten out of every hundred people infected with the virus will face serious complications rather than the mild chicken pox most people think of.

In Australia, the vaccine is on the schedule of immunisations recommended for all children, but it isn’t funded by the Government. A script is required to purchase the vaccine from a chemist for $60 to $80. For adults, it is cost effective to have serum testing first to determine if the vaccine is required.

Why have children vaccinated? 

The chicken pox vaccine is 100% effective against the severe disease and 80-90 % effective against the disease in total. This means that all vaccinated people are protected from a severe outbreak and most will not contract the disease at all. The introduction of the vaccine has already significantly reduced the number of cases appearing each year.

However, there are people who believe the disease is mild enough to not worry and who doubt the usefulness of the vaccine. The following list of reasons suggests that the vaccine is worth considering.

v     Chicken pox is itchy and uncomfortable. A study of children showed 7 out of 10 of them would prefer the vaccine to the disease.

v     Chicken pox often leaves scars, frequently on the face, and these can be unsightly.

v     There is a 5 – 10% complication risk.

v     The vaccine reduces the effect of the disease if is caught anyway.

v     The average Australian child will miss five and a half days of school for chicken pox. This often means that a parent misses work for that long, too, and there are the expenses of dealing with the disease.

v     Reducing the cases of chicken pox in the community also offers protection to pregnant women and other high risk groups.

v     Also prevents or modifies the effect of shingles in later life.

v     “Herd immunity” will protect children if surrounded by vaccinated children. However, they will face the bigger risk of chicken pox as an adult.

v     The vaccine is tolerated by immune people so there is no problem with receiving it if in doubt.

Outbreaks in schools and other child care centres have been known to last for 3 to 6 months; mass vaccination of the uninfected has been shown to drastically reduce the local epidemic. Likewise, having the vaccine within days of exposure may reduce the severity of the disease in that child, if not prevent it entirely.

Why not have children vaccinated?

Like all vaccines, there are some minor side effects possible from the chicken pox vaccine. Various disadvantages to the vaccine are:

v     2% breakthrough rate – this means that 2 out of every hundred vaccinated people actually develop chicken pox from the vaccine. However, they do have the disease very mildly and then life long immunity.

v     About 20% of people find the injection site tender afterwards

v     Low grade fever occurs in about 10% of vaccinated people

v     A mild rash of less than 10 blisters occurs in about 4% of vaccinated people

v     Febrile seizures occur once in every thousand vaccinations. These seizures are short lived and typically pose no real threat to the child

v     Costs $60 to $80 per vaccine

v     Extra injection to deal with, although research is underway to mix the vaccine with the MMR vaccine.

Vaccination is not recommended for people:

v     Allergic to gelatine

v     Allergic to neomycin

v     Under nine months in age, although over twelve months is preferable

v     Being treated with large doses of corticosteroids; wait for three months after treatment.

v     Suffering from a moderate to severe illness

v     Pregnant women

v     Within five months of having received any blood products

v     Having a family history of first degree relatives with congenital hereditary immunodeficiencies.

v     Have AIDS/HIV or other immunodeficiency

v     Low platelet count

v     Reacted to a previous does of the vaccine (Only those over 12 need two doses anyway.)

v     Undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment Within five months

 

Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and is available to solve all your business writing problems! From letters to policies, newsletters to web content, Word Constructions writes all business documents to your style and satisfaction.

 

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