Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vaccines--Chicken Pox (Varicella)

The varicella vaccine is recommended at 12m and/or 24m (not everyone agrees on the second dose). It is supposed to protect your children from that horrible scary disease the chicken pox! [cue scary music...]

Alright, who remembers having had the chicken pox? Go ahead, raise your hands.
Was it really that bad? I mean, yeah, it was itchy, and for a week or so you probably felt lousy...but think about it, now you're immune for life! That's not too terrible a trade is it? I know, a few of us got little scars from the pox-marks, but do you know of anyone who made it through childhood without a scar or two? I was 10 when I got the chicken pox--so older than most kids--and my memories of it are pretty clear. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't horrible. Actually, I'd take the itching over a make-you-barf stomach bug any day!

It is true that chicken pox can be dangerous for an infant under 1 year, or for people who don't catch it until they are in their teens or adult years. So, for decades mothers have taken their kids to 'pox parties' with other kids who were infected, to insure that everybody got it while they were in those perfect middle years. Now these mothers are just getting their kids a vaccine.
But the vaccine is far scarier than the disease ever was.

First of all, it's not available until the child is over a year, so infants are still at risk. Secondly, the 'immunity' bestowed by the vaccine lasts for 10 years at most, so around the age of 11 or 12 (ie, just when catching chicken pox would begin to be dangerous again) the vaxed child is now again at risk. Who is the dummy that thought this was a good idea?! "Protect" them for exactly the years when catching it would be no big deal?! C'mon people!!!

Oh, and it gets better. You know shingles? Well, having chicken pox (and getting that immunity) also gives immunity to shingles. Having the chicken pox vaccine (varicella) appears to cause shingles. Oh yeah, it quite often causes chicken pox too. Um, why are we giving this shot again?!

For those who don't know, shingles is related to chicken pox. Basically some people get a little stuck in them like a chronic case of CP. It doesn't break out unless their immune system is lowered...exposure to others with active cases of CP re-boosts their system and prolongs the immunity (postpones/prevents outbreaks). Now that we're preventing CP in the first place, shingles is showing up more than ever before. In fact, many doctors are now recommending a shingles shot for anyone over age 50. Yay, another shot. Oh, and there are boosters too...more shots, more shots!

Or we could start holding pox parties again. I suspect that any kid you ask will tell you he'd rather be spotty and itchy than have a whole bunch of shots. I suspect most adults feel the same way. I know your immune system does.

This article is full of references and helpful information about the varicella vaccine, and has lots more details on the shingles connection.


I typically don't share my personal decisions on vaccination--I think it's important for each family to make their own decisions based on the research. BUT, in this case, I think it's pretty obvious what the thoughtful choice is. STAY AWAY!!!
I would consider this vaccine only for a young teen who had not managed to catch the actual disease, and I would have said teen be part of the decision-making process about whether or not to get the shot.


cathryn said...

Wow. I'm convinced.

Still, I would LOVE to hear the "other side's" rebuttal to all this, and everything in that article you linked. Physicians have to know this stuff, right? They must have heard these arguments before. I have a hard time believing THAT MANY doctors out there have heard these arguments and don't really have any rebuttals to them, but just keep promoting vaccines for money reasons. I mean, I don't have a very high opinion of the ethics of most doctors in general, but I still have a hard time believing the integrity of that many doctors is suffering THAT much.

I just don't know. I think they must have some arguments to all the anti-vaccinee stuff out there. I just don't know how to find out what they are, and make my decisions from there.

Thanks for posting your research though. I'm going to skim through your others again now. I'm still on the fence about most.

Becky said...

NO, you have it all wrong, Chicken Pox KILLS PEOPLE!!!!!

Dun dun DUN!!!

Sarcasm aside, I hate this vaccine. HATE IT. I can't find people with chicken pox to expose my kids to. And the less *I'm* exposed, the more likely I'll be to get shingles, and I don't want it! Or the vaccine!

I had one of the worst cases of chicken pox that I know of, when I was about 8 years old. I had a couple blisters pop up on my torso, and they were SO ITCHY, and I tried so hard to to scratch them, but after half a day, I went nuts, and scratched them until I fell asleep in exhaustion. In the morning, I was absolutely exhausted. I had over 100 blisters on just my face and neck. The rest of my body was equally covered. But I don't remember ever feeling sick. Just very very itchy. I remember playing in the basement with my sisters and a whole bunch of toys while I was covered, and being happy all the while. So it can't have been bad. And I don't even have any scars from the blisters. Plenty from other things, but not the blisters.

I'm with you, the only reason I would consider giving this one to my kids is if they're nearly adults and want to get it after researching it.

RunninL8 said...

Count me in on the POX PARTY!!!

saskia said...

years ago the uneducated single mother that I was had my daughter get this, she still got chicken pox, and then last year she got shingles at 12, for goodness sakes chicken pox is here for a reason

Jessica said...

I agree with you... my only question is, if no one is getting the chicken pox at a young age, how do your kids get it? Then they end up teens needing the shot? Hm... sounds like a marketing scheme to me.

megan said...

Chicken pox causes encephalopathy (inflammation of the central nervous system) in 1 in 1000 cases of the disease. This is not universally fatal but kids certainly do die from it and even if they survive they can be left with some neurological symptoms. So death and brain damage in a small portion of the kids who get the disease would be the “dun dun DUN”. Obviously, the question is whether you believe that your child will be one of the 999/1000 who is totally fine after having the illness or if yours will be part of the group in the 1/1000 cases who die from the complication. There are other complications of the disease including streptococcal /staphylococcal infections(types of bacteria that are commonly found on the skin and can invade and cause infection when there is a break in the skin, e.g. from scratching ) , and Reye’s syndrome (pretty rare but potentially fatal). The risk for these complications and others obviously increases if your child has another health problem (compromised immune system for example).
I feel that I should point out a slight problem with your description of shingles. Shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus (the medical name is ‘varicella zoster’ virus ) that you have living in your body after your childhood infection. So, if you managed to never get chicken pox in your whole life you would never get shingles. Your assertion that “Well, having chicken pox (and getting that immunity) also gives immunity to shingles. Having the chicken pox vaccine (varicella) appears to cause shingles” is somewhat inaccurate for the reasons stated above.
I would also like to point out a problem with the argument that doctors/drug companies/hospitals etc are pushing vaccines that do no good and frequently do harm for a financial gain. Let’s just set aside whether or not vaccines do more good than harm. Let’s think only about the financial gain argument. If there were many people getting (for example) polio and meningitis there would be many more people needing surgery, and lifelong medical care or ICU stays. This would cost a phenomenal amount of money. Your doctor gets paid a lot more to remove your limbs in a rush to save your life after you contract bacterial meningitis than she does asking her nurse to give you a shot. Of course economies of scale are a factor here but that certainly moves the question away from doctors and possibly on to drug companies. This, however raises entirely different questions.
I just wanted to correct a couple of misconceptions that I frequently see in these types of discussions. Thanks for reading this very long post.

Christa said...

Reyes syndrom...isn't that caused when you give your child Ibuprofen while the heave the chicken pox?
Isn't there also a 1/1000 chance that your child will be born a hermaphrodite? I mean really, let's be serious about the issue at hand, is is reasonable to give my child a vaccine that only has a life of 10 years, that would prevent them from getting the chicken pox during the SAFEST time they could get it? No it's not.

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