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Should you have your child vaccinated for chicken pox?

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:33pm

I came down with the chicken pox a couple weeks ago. It suprised me when my friend, a very sensible mother and lawyer, joked about wanting to bring her five-year-old son over to expose him to my virus. She, like many parents, is opposed to vaccinating for chicken pox.

Immunization for chicken pox? I don't know about you, but when I was a child we were not routinely immunized against the virus. Then, in 1995, the varicella vaccine was licensed to immunize against the chicken pox in the US. Ten years later it was lumped in with measles, mumps and rubella vaccines to make the wham-o, super vaccine MMRV. Oooh, that's one big shot!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have gotten behind the varicella vaccine. According to Family Doctor.org, the chicken pox can cause problems such as brain swelling, pneumonia and skin infections. It is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in this country. And apparently, vaccinating against the virus saves parents money in lost wages and medical bills.

So what's the problem, then?

First of all, chicken pox is typically a relatively mild disease for children. Some parents feel it is better to let nature take its course, allow their children to cycle through the virus, and then benefit from the resulting immunity. Parents are concerned about possible long-term effects of the vaccine, about which we know very little. In a Telegraph opinion piece Dr. Richard Halvorsen worries that childhood inoculation will "push the disease into older age groups, who will catch the illness as their vaccine-induced immunity wears off." He is also concerned about the possible link between multiple vaccinations and the increase in auto-immune diseases.

I think these concerns warrant some thought... Do you?

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