What's Responsible for the Staggering Drop in Chickenpox Cases

Thanks to the 2-dose vaccine, chickenpox cases are down an amazing 85 percent. 

Young boy with chickenpox
Photo: Shutterstock

According to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of chickenpox have dropped 85 percent in the US since 2006, when doctors first started recommending a second dose of the vaccine. Pretty impressive. Especially when you consider that contracting chickenpox was once pretty much a rite of passage—with 4 million Americans on average getting the virus each year back in the early 90s.

And while many parents and anti-vaxxers have been quick to dimiss the disease as nothing more than a minor nuisance, there's no denying that it can be a serious, even life-threatening, illness. In fact, back before the second dose was implemented in 1996, 13,500 of those with chickenpox ended up in the hospital, and 100 to 150 died each year.

But thanks to the introduction of the second vaccine, the CDC says more than 3.5 million cases of chickenpox, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths each year have been prevented. And while the two-dose immunization isn't fail-proof—in fact, last spring, my 10-year-old came down with a nasty case of chickenpox despite the fact that he had already received his two-dose vaccination against it—it's nonethetless a pretty good argument for getting the vaccine.

"Since the vaccine came out in 1995, the chickenpox vaccine has been a win-win," Ari Brown, M.D., founder of 411 Pediatrics and a Parents advisor, told Parents.com. "Either a child is completely protected from disease or is protected from serious disease. Vaccinated children who have a breakthrough case have not been hospitalized or died from chickenpox or the serious secondary infections that can accompany chickenpox."

The AAP recommends all children get their first dose of varicella at 12–15 months, and the second dose at 4–6. So if you''ve got questions, talk to your pediatrician or visit the AAP website for more information.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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