Although chicken pox is a mild disease that usually runs its course in 5 to 10 days, withstanding this infection can be extremely uncomfortable. The itchy skin rash that develops along with the flu-like symptoms of this infection makes it quite an uneasy disease to get through. When an adult gets infected, the chicken pox symptoms are much more severe. Besides, it is very easy to catch this infection as it is highly contagious and the chicken pox virus is transmitted easily through air. That is why, in the case of chicken pox, prevention is truly better than cure, and the chicken pox vaccine is one of the most reliable methods of chicken pox prevention.
Does The Chicken Pox Vaccine Really Work?
The chickenpox vaccine is very effective in protecting an individual from this disease – between 70% and 90% of people who get vaccinated end up being completely immune to chickenpox. A few people who receive the vaccination might still contract the disease, but with much milder symptoms.
Studies have shown that in the case of children, when vaccination is carried out within three days of exposure to the infection, it is 90% effective in preventing the illness, while vaccination carried out within five days of exposure is 70% effective.
The Chicken Pox Vaccine – The Mechanism Behind It
The chicken pox vaccine is also called the Varicella vaccine, after the Varicella Zoster virus that causes this infection. The vaccine consists of a live but weakened strain of the Varicella-Zoster virus. When this is injected into a person, it is capable of creating an immune response, but is incapable of causing the disease.
The vaccine can be administered to children once they are older than 12-15 months, and is to be given in two doses:
- The first dose should be given when the child is between 12 and 15 months old.
- The second dose can be given before the child is 4-6 years old, as long as 3 months have passed since the first dose.
Even adolescents and adults, those who didn’t get two doses of the vaccine when they were younger and who haven’t contracted the infection either, must get vaccinated against chicken pox.
If you had chicken pox as a child, you needn’t get vaccinated because the body gets immunized on its own against the virus. If you are exposed to chicken pox, getting vaccinated right away within 72 to even 120 hours will prevent or greatly reduce your risk of contracting the infection.
Who Should Not Be Given The Chicken Pox Vaccine?
- Pregnant women (If you have received the first dose of the vaccine, then you should wait for at least a month before planning a pregnancy).
- Those who are immuno-compromised i.e. those who have a weakened immune system because of conditions such as HIV/AIDS, organ transplants, cancer, or cancer therapy, should not opt for the chicken pox vaccine.
- Those who are taking aspirin or other salicylates as medication should not get the chicken pox vaccine. Aspirin consumption in children with viral illnesses like chicken pox has been linked to a potentially life-threatening condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Availability Of The Chicken Pox Vaccine
The chicken pox vaccine first became available for use in the U.S.A in 1995. Since then the vaccine has come to be widely used all across the world. Since 2005, it has been made part of a combination vaccine – MMRV vaccine – for protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.
The World Health Organization strongly recommends the MMRV vaccine. Countries like the U.S.A, Germany, and Australia give tremendous importance to it, but in countries like India, the MMRV vaccine isn’t a part of the National Immunization Programme yet. It is available as an optional vaccine, though.
Side Effects Of The Chicken Pox Vaccine
Getting a dose of the chicken pox vaccine is safe, and the side-effects, if any, are minor, such as:
- Pain, redness, and swelling where the shot is given
- A mild rash
Severe reactions like seizures are very rare, about 1 in 1000, but they may occur in children with a low platelet count. It is important to note that the link between these reactions and the vaccine hasn’t been thoroughly established. Pneumonia may occur in rare instances, and occasionally there are chances of anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to counter this troublesome infection. Keep yourself and your child free of this disease by ensuring that the chicken pox vaccine has been administered at the right time.