Chickenpox Vaccine Linked To Lower Shingles Rate

Chickenpox vaccine lessens likelihood of pediatric shingles

Chickenpox vaccine lessens likelihood of pediatric shingles

A new study found children's rates of herpes zoster were 78 percent lower when they had been vaccinated against varicella, which is commonly known as chickenpox. That ultimately caused the rate of shingles to decrease by 72 percent.

Using records from six integrated US health organizations, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research combed through the data of more than 6 million children ages 17 years and younger during a 12-year study period (from 2003-14). Lead author Sheila Weinmann, senior investigator with Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research, said they felt it was important to find out what was going on.

What the researchers found was that kids who were vaccinated against chickenpox had a 78% lower risk of developing shingles.

Weinmann said the overall drop was large because so much less of the virus was circulating in the general population.

This phase 3b follow-up study was published in The Lancet on February 11, 2019.

"That varicella vaccine prevents not only varicella but zoster as well", Anne A. Gershon, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Columbia Medical school, wrote in a commentary, "this is an exciting dual benefit from the varicella vaccine, further improving the health of children by immunization". "Now we have to find out how long the protection will last".

Shingles is an infection of varicella, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Roughly one in three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Since 2007, a booster at 4 and 6 years of age also has been recommended.

Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. He wasn't involved in the current study, but is familiar with the findings.

Older people are most susceptible to developing shingles due to their weakened immune systems, but younger people can also get shingles.

The reason for the earlier shingles rate among 1-year-olds? "As you get older, the immune system gets exhausted", she explained. For the second study, the group looked at medical records of almost 6.4 million children under the age of 18, calculating rates of shingles over 12 years. More than 14,300 developed shingles during the 12-year study period.

Overall, about half had received the chickenpox vaccine. But over the study period, the rate of shingles cases kept declining, which may be a hopeful sign for longer protection.

These researchers compared the rates of herpes zoster in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children from 2003-2014. "So varicella vaccine prevents not only varicella, but zoster", Fagan said. They were being exposed to varicella virus before the unvaccinated children were.

When compared with the combined vaccines, the segmented varicella vaccine offered individual protection against all severities of disease leading to a potential reduction in transmission.

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