The chickenpox vaccine, or varicella vaccine, is often given to children to ward them against infection with the disease. Varicella is an extremely infective virus, transmittable by contact, shared air or contact with bodily fluids. Although usually not fatal, the chickenpox virus can cause severe illness and occasionally scarring from the accompanying rash. The vaccine against the virus is generally harmless, but some consider it controversial to immunize against a relatively mild disease that has the potential to mutate and attack those who are naturally susceptible to chickenpox.
In 1988, the chickenpox vaccine was released in Japan and Korea, where it was developed. Within the decade, it was part of the standard immunization package given to children worldwide. Today, every public school in America requires the chickenpox vaccine to be given to students, though exemptions are made for religious, philosophical or health-related objections.
Up to 90% of immunized patients will never contract chicken pox, despite exposure. The few who do get sick will generally have an easier time, shorter recovery period, and less chance of scarring. Additionally, anti-bodies left in the body by chickenpox seem to work as a natural immunization, so people who contract the illness once are not likely to ever get it again.
Typically, the chickenpox vaccine is given to babies 18-24 months old, often in two doses or shots. The disease seems to be more severe when contracted by adults with no previous history or who have not been immunized. Because of this, receiving shots of the chickenpox vaccine is often recommended for daycare, health or prison workers, or those working in areas with low overall health.
A drug that seems to work so well would appear to have little controversy attached to it, yet some question the long-term problem of the chickenpox vaccine. If we were to vaccinate everyone in the world, after several generations the population would have absolutely no inborn resistance to the disease. Critics argue that if the virus mutates, humans who would never have received the natural antibodies that come with having suffered the illness would again be vulnerable. Most doctors seem to fee that the benefits of the chickenpox vaccine outweigh the risks, especially for those in regular contact with children or in areas with poor overall health.
Chickenpox is usually an unpleasant illness, but it can occasionally be a fatal one due to complications. If you wish to be immunized or want the vaccine for your children, have a conversation with your doctor to fully understand the risks and benefits of the vaccine. Pregnant women, cancer or HIV patients, or those with certain allergies should not get the chickenpox vaccine, so be sure your doctor conducts a thorough medical history with you before giving you this or any immunization shots.