Study: Unvaccinated Kids more at risk of Varicella illness

If you have still not vaccinated your child against Varicella or what is commonly known as Chickenpox, it is time to act now as a study suggests that unvaccinated children are 9 time more prone to the illness.

According to the research team at Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research who studied the electronic health records of more than 86,000 children aged 12 months to 8 years between 1998 and 2008, those kids whose parents refused to immunize their child against chickenpox were found to be at a greater risk of contracting the illness.

“Many parents question the need for vaccinations. This study provides evidence to counter the misperception among vaccine-refusing parents that their children are not at risk for potentially serious illness,” said the study’s lead author and senior scientist Dr. Jason Glanz.

It is believed that almost everyone contracts chickenpox at least once in their lifetime. It is a highly contagious disease with symptoms like high fever, itchy rash and prominent red blisters developing all over the body. Parents who refuse to get this immunization knowingly or unknowingly also pose severe risk among children who are already suffering from eczema, HIV, cancer or other immune-compromising diseases. It is also dangerous for pregnant women and newborns.

Like all vaccine-preventable diseases, Varicella spread has been controlled drastically since 1995 when the vaccine came to be widely used. The number of cases recorded since the immunization drive has reduced by more than 80 percent.

Although the study could not determine the reason behind parents’ refusal to the vaccine, it is a vital health decision they need to reconsider as when a child is infected, it is not only discomforting for him and the family but also increases the risk of infection of the whole community, according to Dr. Glanz. He stresses ‘Parents should get their child immunized as the benefits outweigh the risk of this safe vaccine.” – Atula, staff writer

The Mayo Clinic says that a common complication of chickenpox is a bacterial infection of the skin. Chickenpox may also lead to pneumonia or, rarely, an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), both of which can be very serious.

There are many factors that come into play with the vaccine. When asked, Dr.Greene posted this:

In the recent past, the primary benefit of getting chickenpox as a child was the likelihood of attaining lifetime immunity. While 10-20% of people who had had chickenpox would eventually develop shingles (a condition characterized by numbness, itching, or severe pain that lasts for 2-3 weeks), most would not get chickenpox again. This may now be changing in areas where the chickenpox vaccine is common. In the past, multiple re-exposures helped to keep people’s immunity high. Since the vaccine is now standard in the United States, the frequency of the natural disease should decline. Those who have had chickenpox as children will not be re-exposed as often, if at all. Their immunity may wane over time, making shingles and adult chickenpox even more common than they are now.

To date, those who have received the vaccine have a much lower incidence of shingles than those who actually had chickenpox over the same time period. Those who receive the vaccine also have a dramatically decreased risk of scarring. Finally, studies so far have found the chickenpox vaccine to be highly effective in preventing moderate and severe chickenpox in children (Redbook: Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 2000).

The other major benefit of the vaccine is an economic one. The vaccine reduces the costs related to the disease, including the costs of missed work, school, and child-care. This economic factor is a major force in the drive for universal immunization in the United States.

So what do you think?

About the author


Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called


  • I don’t really understand the purpose of this article.

    Most parents who decline immunization for this particular disease are aware that their child can get the disease, and many prefer their child get it than the vaccination. Of course those children are more prone; if they weren’t, the vaccine would be useless!!

    What’s the problem with a child who has eczema getting chicken pox over someone else?
    Wouldn’t the flip side exist as well: a child with eczema perhaps has more allergies/sensitivities and a parent might actually choose to refuse this live virus vaccine and all of its components because of the individual child’s symptoms?

    I don’t mean to make this into a vaccination debate. I am specifically questioning the point this article is making about this specific vaccine.

  • An irresponsible article at best. Playing on the fears of parents. The benefits DO outweigh the cost of getting the disease which is thought to offer lifelong protection and a more robust immunity overall.

    The good doctors’ answer quoted at the end is a more realistic opinion – (economic forces being the MAIN reason for this vaccine).

    Sad, that the vaccination programme is actually interfering with the otherwise symbiotic relationship we once had with this bug.


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