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.