Chicken pox vaccine dramatically reduces death rates

The Wall Street Journal reports in “Aches & Claims” that the Varivax chicken pox vaccine has reduced mortality by 88%, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Only 14 deaths with chicken pox as the main cause were reported in 2007, compared with an average of 105 a year during the years 1990-1994 immediately prior to the vaccine’s introduction, the study found.

In 2008, there were only two deaths, according to the latest data, the CDC says.

“The vaccine is very effective at preventing severe disease,” says CDC scientist and study co-author Mona Marin.

In Great Britain, the vaccine is not routinely given to children or adults. Experts there believe getting more people vaccinated will result in more cases of shingles in adults.

Exposure to chicken pox in the natural environment, these scientists believe, provides essentially a “booster shot” for adults, which may help protect against shingles. But as more people get vaccinated for chicken pox, there would be less natural exposure to it, they say.

However, a study published in September suggests that chicken pox exposure does NOT change the risk of shingles. In fact, it shows just the opposite … that exposure to children with live chicken pox does NOT reduce the risk of shingles.

The study found NO statistically significant difference in the incidence of shingles among nuns and monks living in isolation in France—and thus, unexposed to children with chicken pox—compared with the general French population.

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