My child has chickenpox, bring your children over for a party! Such was a common practice since the 50’s; before vaccination, parents had few options. Exposure to any “wild” virus offers better immunity that a vaccination. This is a logical assumption since all viruses generally enter the body thru the eyes, nose or mouth and follow a normal immune response verses as a puncture wound. Getting chickenpox is reported to give permanent immunity to chickenpox while vaccination is only temporary requiring booster shots. Many of the earlier complications included Reye syndrome that was associated with giving a child aspirin while they had a viral infection. Never give a child aspirin.
As some parents continue this practice, The Atlantic reports some state health officials are “cracking down on these parents who play Russian roulette with their children’s health.” They are particularly baffled since a vaccine for chickenpox was approved in 1995. Having an unequivocal belief that any vaccine is worthwhile could be a barrier to looking at actual risk, benefits, and options.
Varicella zoster (Chickenpox), a member of the herpes family, is a relatively mild childhood disease but can be difficult for adults. Whether you choose exposure to the wild virus or a vaccination, make sure your child is healthy at the time. Never vaccinate a child that is sick. Recently vaccinated children can be contagious so they should not be around pregnant women or individuals with compromised immune systems.
Prior to 1986 the risk of deaths from chickenpox complications was less than 50 children per year, which is 0.0014% (Preblud, S.R. Pediatrics 1986;78:728-735). These are generally associated with previously compromised immune systems. Women that contract chickenpox while pregnant during the first 16 weeks have a higher risk of birth defects in their child.
Complications of the vaccine include pneumonitis (<1%) and seizures (<0.1%) The FDA Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System during the first year of the vaccine reported over 1,500 events, 76 were serious, with 2 deaths. Vaccine injury information documented a decreased incidence of chicken pox but an increase in the Herpes Zoster (shingles) infection or a reactivation to Herpes Zoster. Normally the Herpes Zoster does not occur in children. There are also reported outbreaks of chicken pox in vaccinated children.
It seems clear that natural immunity is superior. However, parents should make informed choices about their children's health. This includes actually looking in to vaccine information concerning risks and benefits.