Is the chickenpox vaccine really necessary?
Even though the chickenpox vaccine has been around for more than a decade, some parents prefer not to vaccinate their kids against it, instead hoping they will contract the virus "naturally" -- or even deliberately exposing them to infected kids. But many experts disapprove of this idea. For one thing, it's getting harder to find other children with chickenpox as more and more kids become vaccinated.
What's more, complications from chickenpox may not be very common, but they are serious. "All children face some risk," says Neal Halsey, MD, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland and a member of the Parents magazine board of advisors. "And in the pre-vaccine days, about 80 percent of complications actually occurred in children who were otherwise healthy." Since it's impossible to predict how your child will respond to the infection, it's important to prevent it in the first place.
If your child didn't receive the chickenpox vaccine as a baby and hasn't come down with the illness by the time he's 10 or 11, you may want to seriously think about him getting him vaccinated, says Robert W. Sears, MD, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. Also, a simple blood test can show if your child's been exposed to enough of the disease to have already developed immunity. Teens and adults tend to experience more serious side effects from chickenpox so it's important that you know your child is protected.
Sources: Neal Halsey, MD, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland and a member of the Parents magazine board of advisors. Robert W. Sears, MD, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. Paul Offit, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and a member of the American Baby magazine advisory board member. CDC sections on Varicella Vaccination. AAP section on Varicella Vaccination. The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford section on Chickenpox. The Mayo Clinic sections on Chickenpox.
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