When I was a child, nearly everybody became ill with chickenpox. Like nearly all kids, when I became ill with it, I stayed home from school about a week and fully recovered.
All that changed in 1995, when the FDA licensed and approved the live attenuated chickenpox (varicella) vaccine in persons aged >12 months. After the vaccine began to be used by most children, the incidence of chickenpox rapidly declined. However, due to continual outbreaks of chickenpox, a second dose of the chickenpox vaccine was added to the childhood immunization schedule in 2006.
Is the chickenpox vaccine effective at significantly lowering the incidence of chickenpox? Yes. Due to the vaccine, there is a significantly lowered incidence of chickenpox.
However, the most important question to ask is, “Has the chickenpox vaccine (along with the other 70 doses of vaccines given) improved the lives of our children and the rest of the population? The answer to that question is easy: No.
Yes, our children have less chickenpox due to the vaccine. However, shingles, a painful reoccurrence of chickenpox, has become an epidemic illness affecting both children and adults. The rapidly increased incidence of shingles is directly related to the use of the chickenpox vaccine. You see, we need chickenpox circulating in the environment to tweak our immune systems in order to stay alert. With the effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine, our immune systems are no longer stimulated with the varicella virus (the virus that causes both chickenpox and measles) which allows the reactivation of the chickenpox virus—shingles– to develop. Studies have shown that we spend more money treating shingles than the savings due to the lowered rate of chickenpox. And, shingles can develop…