What is the vaccine?
The Chicken Pox vaccine contains a laboratory weakened/altered amount of the Varicella virus which stimulates an immune response in the patients body so that they will be able to defend themselves from future exposure. It is such a weak dose that most patients (98%) suffer no symptoms afterwards – in a very small minority the patient may show a very mild form of the disease. It is usually no more than 5-6 blisters in this case. Full illness causes 200-500 blisters in most cases. This type of vaccination stimulates an excellent immune response and will leave your child approximately 90% protected against the illness.
It is suitable from 12 months of age and is given in two doses with at least one month between the first and last. It can be given into the muscle or into the fat just under the skin so for smaller children it will most likely be given into the thigh whereas older children may get it into their arm. It can be given with some other vaccines such as Hep B and the 6 in 1 and is ok with the MMR so long as they are administered at the same time – otherwise you need to have a month gap as both are live vaccines.
The vaccine should not be given to those:
- Receiving imunosuppressive therapy.
- With immunodeficiency
- With a fever over 38.5 degrees Celcius.
- Pregnant women – also pregnancy should be avoided for one month following vaccination.
- Breastfeeding mums (speak to your GP).
- With a sensitivity to gelatin or neomycin.
- If an allergic reaction was experienced from the first vaccine – you avoid the second.
If you choose to have your child vaccinated try to avoid close contact with people who are at high risk of suffering from severe illness with chicken pox if infected such as the immunocompromised (e.g cancer patients receiving chemo, transplant patients, those on immunosupressive medications), women who are pregnant who have not previously had the chicken pox, and newborn babies. These groups of patients should be avoided for about six weeks after vaccination – obviously it is not always possible as you don’t always know! It’s just something to be aware of really and to be conscious of when practical.
If you or your child has come into contact with an infected patient within the last three days you can actually still get vaccinated – it may help to prevent or reduce the impact of infection. There is some data to suggest even up to five days after exposure it may still be beneficial to get vaccinated!
What are the potential side effects?
The side effects of the chicken pox vaccine are usually fairly mild but can include:
- Some soreness and pain around the injection site – which is more likely after the second dose.
- A mild chicken pox style rash.
- A cough (upper respiratory infection)
Pro’s and cons of vaccination
- Chicken Pox is mostly a very uncomfortable but relatively mild illness. Most people suffer with some ‘flu’ like symptoms and experience varying degrees of the rash. However there is a minority who suffer from a severe form of the illness and can become very unwell with it, even requiring hospitalisation. It can even be life threatening in a small number of cases. The people most at risk of complications (encephalitis, pneumonia etc) are those with weakened immune systems, small infants and previously uninfected pregnant women.
- It can cause your child to need 5-10 days off school or out of childcare – so whilst this isn’t a pharmaceutical fact, more a practical one – as a parent it can be quite expensive or stressful if your child catches the virus!
- It can lead to severe skin infections and scarring.
- Your child may suffer from side effects from the vaccine however most children don’t suffer from any.
- Vaccinating your child provides them with immunity without the risk of serious complications due to the illness.
- The more people are vaccinating the less that chicken pox will circulate and so the less risk in childhood there will be for those in our communities who are susceptible to severe illness and unable to vaccinate themselves. There is a thought that increasing the number of people who are vaccinated could increase the number of adult cases of chicken pox as unvaccinated people will be less likely to come across the illness in childhood as it would be less common. This would mean they could catch it as an adult which unfortunately can result in more severe illness. It is thought it could also affect the incidence of shingles, especially in groups who cannot receive the shingles vaccine.
To receive the vaccine you need to phone your GP to arrange a prescription which can then be dispensed by your local Pharmacy (Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 for those of you close by!). It will probably need to be ordered in so do give a days notice when possible. The vaccines cost in the region of €55-60 per injection – you will need two.They will need to be kept in the fridge and as we have special highly controlled fridges in the Pharmacy I would recommend you collect it on your way to the GP.
As you can see there are a lot of positives and negatives surrounding vaccination. All I can say is that I feel I have provided you with as much information as I can to help you make your decision – feel free to get in touch if there is anything you need more information on.
To learn more about the chicken pox read my blog here – https://wonderbaba.ie/2016/08/30/a-wonderbaba-guide-to-chicken-pox/
To learn more about the treatment of chicken pox read my product review here – https://www.wonderbaba.ie/blog/verdict-on-chicken-pox-products/
I hope you find this helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!