My son received the chicken pox vaccine when he was 1. When he was 3 he ended up catching a mild case of chicken pox. Why did this happen? I thought the vaccine prevented kids from getting the disease.
Josey, it’s good that you got your son immunized. In 1996 the American Academy of Pediatrics and centres for Disease Control declared the chicken pox vaccine safe and effective, and recommended that children get it between 12 and 18 months of age. Most states require it for entry into childcare and school. Even though some people thought chicken pox was a minor childhood illness, many children and adults had serious complications from it, including severe skin infections, pneumonia and even brain infections, leading to approximately 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths each year in the United States. Over the past decade, the vaccine has succeeded in cutting chicken pox cases and complications by 70 to 80%.
The vaccine has been found to be about 80% effective. That means that for every 10 children who get it, two might end up developing chicken pox if they’re exposed to it. But this isn’t as bad as it may sound. Now that most children are getting immunized, it’s far less likely that they will even be exposed to anyone with chicken pox. And for immunized children who develop chicken pox, the vaccine provides partial protection and they usually have only a mild illness. The illness is shorter, often without a fever, and they have far fewer pox lesions (an average of 50 compared to 250 to 500 without the vaccine). So experts say that the chicken pox vaccine is nearly 100% effective in preventing severe chicken pox.
When children develop chicken pox, they should stay home from childcare or school for five days or until the lesions crust over. This helps protect other children and adults from catching the chicken pox. Teens and adults who didn’t have chicken pox should also get immunized, since they could get very sick if they catch it. What’s more, pregnant women who catch chicken pox can pass it on to their baby. Hopefully, chicken pox will soon be a disease of the past.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.