Researchers found that there is another benefit to getting the chickenpox vaccine as a child: it can also prevent the development of shingles later in life.
In a study backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a team from the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research reviewed the medical records of more than 6 million children between 2003 and 2014.
They published the study in the journal Pediatrics on Monday, June 10.
Chickenpox Vaccine Lowers Risk Of Shingles
The researchers reported that out of the 6.3 million children, approximately 50 percent received the chickenpox vaccine. The rest did not.
Over the 12-year study period, the researchers found that the incidence of shingles or herpes zoster (also referred to as HZ) was 78 percent lower among children who received the chickenpox vaccine compared to those who did not.
"We looked at the incidence rates of HZ overall, at how many cases there were per 100,000 person-years, including by age and gender," explained Sheila Weinmann, lead investigator of the study, in a press release. "We saw the highest rates of HZ in the early years of the study when there was a higher proportion of children, particularly older children, who had not received the varicella vaccine."
Chickenpox, characterized by itchy and blister-like rash that is common among children, and shingles, painful rash that develops on one side of the body or face, are both caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Once a person is infected with chickenpox, the VZV virus would remain inside the body and go into hiding. Later on, it will be reactive and cause shingles.
Eradicating Shingles In The Future
The study provided proof that the chickenpox vaccine, which was only introduced in 1995, prevents shingles.
"There was some hint of this when they did clinical trials, but with millions of children, this study presents really strong evidence," Dr. Tina Tan, an infectious disease specialist at the Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital who was not involved in the study told NBC News.
She also stated that as people who have received the chickenpox vaccine grow older, shingles, which mostly develop among adults age 50 and above, will become less common.