Chickenpox vaccine is great, but it’s got us 30+ year-olds getting shingles. Here’s why…

The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine came out in 1995. So, as of now (2019) in the US (and Canada), most of the college-age students have been vaccinated and have never had the natural chickenpox virus.

Once you’ve had the natural chickenpox virus in your body the virus goes dormant in your nervous system until possibly one day when you’re under a time of extreme stress/immunocompromise and the virus reactivates. Reactivation of the varicella virus (chickenpox) causes shingles (zoster).

Since these kids have never had the chickenpox virus, theoretically they won’t get shingles later in life. That’s assuming the vaccine is effective, most everyone has been vaccinated, and these children do not get the wild virus.

We can’t expect that all children will be vaccinated, however, the chickenpox vaccine is so effective that the seroconversion rate (when antibodies develop to a detectable level in the blood) is around 95% in healthy children.(2) That means the vaccine works pretty well, so it should help create good herd immunity if most children are vaccinated, and thus, aid in the prevention of shingles for the uninfected/vaccinated later in life. 

So, simplified–if you’ve had chickenpox you are able to get shingles. If you’ve never had chickenpox you are not able to get shingles. If you’ve had the vaccine, you’ve never had chickenpox so you shouldn’t get shingles. 

Read moreChickenpox vaccine is great, but it’s got us 30+ year-olds getting shingles. Here’s why…

Seeing Spots: Julian’s Chickenpox Story

20130112_183429

If you’re like me, you probably had the chicken pox as a kid, way before the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine was introduced to the public. I vaguely remember the itchy spots and can recall lying on the couch for week watching cartoons. But, if you made it through childhood without catching the chicken pox and haven’t been vaccinated now as an adult, you may be begging for trouble. As Julian found out, getting the chickenpox in adulthood is absolutely horrific.

As a schoolteacher in Australia you may assume Julian has had just about every cold and virus out there. Children tend to be little Petri dishes, harboring all kinds of germs, but the schoolyard is not where his chickenpox story begins.

Julian was spending time with his two sons while on summer break. His oldest son had been vaccinated with the varicella vaccine on schedule, while his youngest was still not old enough for the vaccine.

That summer, Julian’s oldest son came down with a mild, short-lived case of the chickenpox. 

As with many vaccines, even if you get vaccinated it is still possible that you may come down with mild symptoms of the disease should you come in contact with it.

It had never occurred to Julian that he may be susceptible to getting the chickenpox virus, as he assumed he had caught it as a child just like everyone else. However, according to his mother, that was not the case. Julian had never caught the chickenpox, and was a sitting duck for the virus.

Read moreSeeing Spots: Julian’s Chickenpox Story

Varicella (chickenpox) Vaccine

Chickenpox
Goldie Locks has Chicken Pox

I don’t know about you, but I REMEMBER getting the chickenpox as a young child. It was itchy and awful. And oatmeal baths! Oh, the oatmeal baths!!

Because this is most often a children’s disease, I thought it would be appropriate to litter this post with the some of the cute photos from one of my daughter’s favorite children’s books: Goldie Locks has Chicken Pox by Erin Dealey, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama. 

Although the illustrator makes chicken pox look cute, it’s anything but. Thankfully, due to the vaccine our kids don’t ever need to experience the chickenpox…

Chickenpox is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is part of the herpesvirus family. The same virus that causes chickenpox can cause shingles later in life. The virus is called varicella when it causes chickenpox, then the virus hides in your body and it gets called zoster when it flares back up and causes shingles. There is also a vaccine for shingles called the zoster vaccine, which you may get should you choose to at around the age of 65 (but, that’s for another post).

Read moreVaricella (chickenpox) Vaccine