Double Shots of Chicken Pox Vaccine?

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

June 19, 2006

If you've ever had the chicken pox, then you know that it is not fun. It is a disease that results in red, itchy blisters all over your body, and some people that have already been vaccinated for it still get it. Parents may soon be adding one more vaccine to their child's list of vaccinations. Doctors hope two chicken pox shots will reduce the risk of getting it.

Two-month-old Madeline is getting another round of required immunizations, and for this first-time mom the trip has been a little challenging.

"For Madeline, it results in a lot of pain from the shot, but the shots are good a thing to prevent a lot of diseases that we don't want our children to have," said Sarah Powell, Madeline's mom.

Diseases such as the very contagious chicken pox. A person who's not vaccinated could end up with hundreds of red, itchy blisters all over their body. State law requires children to get the chicken pox vaccine, also known as the varicella vaccine, between 12 and 15 months of age. However, some people will still get it even with the vaccine.

"We think 80 or 90 percent of kids with the vaccine will be able to be exposed and not get the itchy rash, but that means that one or two out of 10 kids may have what we call breakthrough disease," said Dr. Gretchen Wasserstrom of Piedmont Pediatrics.

A breakthrough disease is a milder case of chicken pox resulting in about 50 blisters as opposed to the usual 300. Now researchers with the Medical Journal of Pediatrics want to prevent that. They're recommending the Centers for Disease control require children to receive a second chicken pox shot.

"Studies that have been done show that a second booster dose of chicken pox with the kindergarten shots at age four and five would probably decrease the incidents of breakthrough disease to one in a hundred," said Dr. Wasserstrom.

It's still too soon for baby Madeline to get her chicken pox shot, but mom Sarah says she's ready to do whatever it takes to keep her chicken pox free, even if it hurts a little.

"It only lasts for a couple of minutes and then she forgets about it and she'll never remember it, but she'll remember the diseases if she gets them, so vaccines are a good thing," said Powell.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, ACIP, will meet on the issue later this month and pass their recommendations on to The Centers for Disease Control. It could be months before a final decision is made.

Doctors add there is a small risk of side effects with the chicken pox vaccine, but say it's much safer to get vaccinated than to get the actual disease.


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