Cases of chickenpox in the United States have dropped further since a two-dose vaccination program was implemented, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Published Sept. 2, the CDC report noted an 85-percent drop in chickenpox cases between 2005-2006 and 2013-2014. The two-dose vaccination program was introduced in 2006. With the largest decline in chickenpox cases recorded in children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 14, the age group coincides with the ages of the children who would have likely gotten a second shot of vaccine against the disease.
Before a chickenpox vaccination program was in place, some 4 million Americans would get sick with the varicella-zoster virus every year. Out of this number, about 11,000 to 13,500 would result in hospitalization, while 100 to 150 would succumb to the disease and die.
When the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in 1996, routine childhood vaccination resulted in a 90-percent decline in cases of the disease in the U.S. However, as outbreaks persisted, it became necessary to implement a two-dose varicella vaccination program.
In this program, children are advised to get their first chickenpox vaccine shot at 12 to 15 months, with the second dose to be administered between 4 and 6 years old.
Alternatively, children may also be given the measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine. It follows the same vaccine schedule but will also protect against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
Parents also have the option of giving their children MMR and varicella vaccines separately. MMRV and the separate vaccines option both offer the same level of protection, but children who receive their first shot via the MMRV vaccine are likelier to have more fevers and seizures related to fevers.
While the two-dose vaccination program against chickenpox has led to a large drop in cases of the disease, it is not recommended for all. For instance, those who have had life-threatening allergic reactions to their first dose should not go through with their second. Those who are heavily allergic to neomycin, an antibiotic, or gelatin should not get the shot at all.
The chickenpox vaccine also can't be administered to those pregnant or moderately or severely ill at the time of their scheduled vaccination. Women are advised not to get pregnant up to a month after receiving a shot.
Getting a chickenpox shot is much like getting any other shot in that swelling or soreness may be present on the injection site. Some may also experience fevers and mild rashes afterward, although these are rare.
Take note that severe allergic reactions such as hives, throat and face swelling, weakness, dizziness and a fast heartbeat may not manifest right away after receiving the chickenpox vaccine. Should these arise a few hours after administration, immediate medical attention is advised.