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Vaccine Refusal Raises Chickenpox Risk

Kids Are 9 Times More Likely to Get Chickenpox if They Don't Get Vaccinated
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CDC: Chickenpox Vaccine Is Safe continued...

According to the CDC, more serious reactions such as seizure and pneumonia are very rare.

But several studies suggest that the VZV vaccine is the most commonly refused childhood vaccine.

It is not exactly clear how many parents choose not to have their children vaccinated.

"The best estimates we have suggest that about 1% to 2% of parents refuse vaccinations for their children, and there is evidence to suggest this number may be growing," Glanz says.

Infectious disease specialist William Schaffner, MD, says while the number of parents who reject all vaccines for their children remains small, the number with specific concerns about vaccines and vaccination schedules appears to be growing.

Schaffner is professor and chairman of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn.

"The pediatricians I talk to are telling me that the time they spend addressing parents' concerns about vaccinations has grown exponentially over the past five years," he says.

VZV Vaccine Very Effective

The VZV vaccine is almost 100% effective for preventing severe cases of chickenpox. Roughly one in 10 children who is vaccinated gets a milder case of the disease.

Vaccination is also believed to prevent the painful, nerve-related condition known as shingles, which is common among older adults and is also caused by the varicella zoster virus.

According to the National Institutes of Health, people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox appear to be less likely to get shingles later in life. 

Schaffner says children who aren't vaccinated can have severe complications including bacterial infections and pneumonia if they get chickenpox.

And unvaccinated children are more likely to expose others who can't be vaccinated to the disease or are at high risk for severe chickenpox infection, including young infants, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

"We vaccinate the strong so that the weak are protected," he says. "Vaccination has always had two functions: to protect the individual and to protect the community."

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