Chicken Pox Vaccine
by Tash Hughes of
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Chicken pox is itchy
and uncomfortable. A study of children showed 7 out
of 10 of them would prefer the vaccine to the disease.
Chicken pox often
leaves scars, frequently on the face, and these can be
There is a 5 – 10%
The vaccine reduces the
effect of the disease if is caught anyway.
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.
Reducing the cases of
chicken pox in the community also offers protection to
pregnant women and other high risk groups.
Also prevents or
modifies the effect of shingles in later life.
“Herd immunity” will
protect children if surrounded by vaccinated children.
However, they will face the bigger risk of chicken pox
as an adult.
The vaccine is
tolerated by immune people so there is no problem with
receiving it if in doubt.
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
vaccines, there are some minor side effects possible
from the chicken pox vaccine. Various disadvantages to
the vaccine are:
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.
About 20% of people
find the injection site tender afterwards
Low grade fever occurs
in about 10% of vaccinated people
A mild rash of less
than 10 blisters occurs in about 4% of vaccinated people
Febrile seizures occur
once in every thousand vaccinations. These seizures are
short lived and typically pose no real threat to the
Costs $60 to $80 per
Extra injection to deal
with, although research is underway to mix the vaccine
with the MMR vaccine.
not recommended for people:
Allergic to gelatine
Allergic to neomycin
Under nine months in
age, although over twelve months is preferable
Being treated with
large doses of corticosteroids; wait for three months
Suffering from a
moderate to severe illness
Within five months of
having received any blood products
Having a family history
of first degree relatives with congenital hereditary
Have AIDS/HIV or other
Low platelet count
Reacted to a previous
does of the vaccine (Only those over 12 need two doses
or radiotherapy treatment Within five months
Tash Hughes is
the owner of
Word Constructions and is available to solve all
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