The chicken pox vaccine, which was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005, is growing in popularity and is becoming more widely used as part of the regular vaccination schedule for children across the country. There are, however, a few red flags related to the chicken pox vaccine and shingles that have drawn people’s attention to this new vaccination.
Chickenpox, or the varicella-zoster virus, is a very common virus found mostly in children. However, if it is possible to experience symptoms (usually worse) as an adult. Although rarely deadly, a few children or adults may experience complications with chickenpox. Most, however, simply get a blistery rash that is itchy.
Scientists are hoping to eradicate this virus through the chickenpox vaccine. Although it is not a cure, it is typically given to children at age 1 and again between the ages of 4 and 6 to reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus. If a person does get the chickenpox after vaccination, it is usually a much milder version.
Adults who have never had chickenpox can also receive the vaccine at any point in time, along with the booster after 28 months of the initial shot.
One way the chicken pox vaccine and shingles are related is that once a person has had the chickenpox or the vaccine, the virus lies dormant in the body. Many people experience a second outbreak, in the form of shingles, as it becomes active after many years (Although it is possible for children to have shingles, it is very rare.).
Not everyone will get shingles, and it is not known what causes the virus becomes active in some people in not others. However, some people fear that the complete elimination of chickenpox will spawn an increased number of cases of shingles. This is where the tie between the chicken pox vaccine and shingles comes in to play.
Usually a person’s body continues to build up an immunity to the dormant zoster virus as it comes in contact with the virus throughout life. If no one is carrying the natural form of the virus and no one has chickenpox, the body no longer builds up this defense. The chicken pox vaccine and shingles are related in that the increase in number of vaccines may result in an increased number of patients with shingles.
Some doctors and scientists feel that the connection between the chicken pox vaccine and shingles is a more positive one. Follow-up studies seem to indicate that people who have received the chickenpox vaccine are less like to acquire shingles later on in life. If this holds true, we would see a dramatic decrease in the number of shingles patients as the number of vaccinations increases.
Only time will reveal the real connection between the chicken pox vaccine and shingles. Let’s hope that the latter case is the one that prevails.