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Chickenpox deaths down dramatically since vaccine

July 25, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Deaths from the chickenpox have plummeted by nearly 90% since the vaccine was introduced in 1995, CDC researchers reported this week in Pediatrics.
Deaths from the chickenpox have plummeted by nearly 90% since the vaccine… (Tim Sloan / Getty Images )

Deaths from chickenpox have dropped dramatically, and are almost nonexistent, since it became routine to vaccinate against the itchy illness.
The death rate from the virus dropped 88% in the 12 years since the varicella vaccine was introduced in 1995, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The drop among children and adolescents (under 20 years) was even greater—97% in the same time period. The researchers, from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, reported the trend online Monday in Pediatrics.
A success, yes, particularly for children. The authors note the drop in deaths was more than were expected when the vaccination program first rolled out.
Yet the actual numbers of chicken pox-related deaths are small—about 105 deaths between 1990-94, compared with 14 deaths in 2007. The authors note that cutting down on sick days and medical expenses and care is “the major benefit” of the program.

Here’s what they had to say in the discussion of the paper:

“Our findings invite speculation regarding whether in the future varicella-related deaths in the U.S. could be eliminated or reduced to extremely low numbers, similar to several other vaccine-preventable diseases (e.g., measles, polio).”

A second dose of the varicella vaccine was added to the routine recommendations in 2006. This practice, the authors suggest, could make chicken pox immunity even more widespread, and perhaps eliminate varicella deaths altogether.

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