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Chickenpox Vaccine Protects Even Those Who Were Not Immunized

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DURHAM — If your kids have been vaccinated againstchickenpox,aDukeUniversity Medical Center studyfinds they are protecting children whohave not had the vaccination.

The chickenpox orvaricellavaccinewas introduced in 1995.Since then, it has prevented almost allsevere cases of the disease and more than 80percent of all chickenpox cases.

"Before children started receiving the vaccine, thecenter would see as many as 20 cases per yearof chickenpox. Sometimes more. Now that childrenhave started to receive the vaccine, two yearsago we only had one case. Last year we didn't haveany," says Lynn Avery Blankenship of First Presbyterian Day School.

The Duke study looked at over 4,000 children in 11 North Carolina day carecenters.

"The varicella immunization rate went up every year to the presentlevel of about 70 percent, and the disease rate hasdecreased dramatically to be almost vanished in theday care centers," says Dr. Dennis Clements, Duke's chief of pediatrics.

The study also found that because so many children are immunized and arenot carrying the disease, children who have not hadthe vaccination are less likely to get chickenpox.

Rebecca Cole's son Christopher died from the complications associated withchickenpox.

"My perception of chickenpox, given what I had heard, was that it wasnothing. They broke out in spots, you know, they were uncomfortable, theyitched," she says.

In older children and adults, the disease is far more serious.

"Because of the invasion of the body of bacteria after the varicelladisease, particularly in adults, they get pneumonia and then they get asecondary bacterial infection from which they can die," says Clements.

The vaccine is approved for use in healthy children ages 12 months andolder.

If you have not be immunized against chickenpox, it is not too late.Adults require a double vaccination, while children get a single dose ofthe vaccine.

Adults who contract chickenpox are 10 times more likely to havecomplications with the disease, including pneumonia.

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