Convince me the chicken pox vaccine isn't stupid

Wait, so your saying if you get chicken pox as a kid, that will cause you to get shingles? That is the opposite of what I always heard. I thought if you get chicken pox, your chances of getting shingles was very slim. Is this not the case?

And I had chicken pox when I was 20. I barley even had a fever. Only had a few marks on me. My younger sister got it at the same time. She has scars from her marks.

Yup. The virus doesn’t go away after you get chicken pox, it just goes dormant and re-emerges as shingles when your immune system can’t keep it suppressed. Creepy and gross, no?

I can tell you, you don’t want chicken pox when you are older! I got it when I was 18 and I was down and out for the entire Christmas and New Year’s holidays that year. It started with the 103 degree fever. Luckily it was not bad enough that I had any complications but I sure had 2 sucky weeks lying on the couch at home itching and feverish. All my friends had chicken pox when they were little kids, but I had never gotten them despite being around them when they were sick. I got it totally out of the blue at college – no idea where I picked it up from. No vaccine existed at the time.

I got a bad case of chicken pox as a child. I didn’t have any serious complications, but I have scars on my face from it. I think these may have contributed to my body image issues.

When I have a kid, he or she is getting the chicken pox vaccine as damn early as possible.

The pediatrician suggest I have my youngest daughter vaccinated against chickenpox, the older one had already caught it when she was 7 months old.

It was recommended because my youngest has patches of eczema and is a serial scratcher/picker. It is very likely that if she gets Chicken pox she will scar herself badly, no matter how often we cut her nails of make her wear gloves. She would also be at a higher risk of the blisters becoming infected as a result of her scratching at them.

The doctor also said that she might have complications as she has a history of ear and bronchial infections.

I understand she may still catch it, but if it is a ‘diluted’ version that’s better for us.

In case you do get the chicken pox after getting vaccinated, it’s very mild. I got the vaccine and I still got chicken pox in 6th grade, but it was so mild that my mother thought they were bug bites. I had about a dozen spots total, if that.

I saw a sign for the shingles vaccine at a drugstore the other day and I was wondering how that would work. I suppose I haven’t given it that much thought, but I thought shingles is just there in you (if you’ve had chicken pox) and can spring up any ol’ time your immune system is depressed for any reason. Does the shingles vaccine work like any other vaccine? I mean, I guess my confusion is that the shingles is already in your body, so how would introducing more (controlled) shingles stop shingles outbreaks? Especially since you can have multiple shingles outbreaks.

Maybe this is just showing my vaccine ignorance here.

FWIW: I am just too old to have missed the chicken pox vaccine. I got chicken pox at 8 or so and don’t remember it being particularly bad. When I was 20, I got shingles and that was super freaking awful.

I thought I remembered seeing something a while ago about a theory that adults being around low level chicken pox infections often (what with kids everywhere) actually kept their immune systems in practice and made it less likely for them to get shingles.

Trust me, I know shingles sucks - my dad came down with them at my college graduation and ended up in the emergency room. He was in terrible pain for more than a year.

See, I was immune to the damned chicken pox as a kid and they vaccinated me in my teens, so I’ve been concerned ever since about the long term effects of the vaccine - shingles, long term effectiveness, etc. It seems to be rather too soon to tell on a grand scale, which worries me.

I felt like an idiot when I first found out about the chicken pox vaccine. I never even knew there was one and both my kids had it by the time they were 4. The only reason I wish they’d had the vaccine is that their babysitter had shingles not once but twice and she was miserable. Shingles also ruined the last few years of my grandmother’s life.

So hopefully when they’re older the shingles vaccine will work for them.

I can only speak for Ontario, but a chicken pox booster has been introduced quite recently. It’s been tacked on to the 2nd MMR (now the MMR-V), and is scheduled to be given to children between the ages of four and six. That said, my office (among others) have recently started giving booster doses of the chicken pox vaccine to older children who’ve already had their 2nd MMR.

The problem with this discussion is that we’re still mostly at the level of anecdote. I know chicken pox can be a serious disease - in fact, that’s kind of my point. If you have the vaccine as a kid, it seems as if you are increasing the likelihood you will get chicken pox as an adult, and chicken pox in adults is worse.

I would like to see some reliable statistics. Implicit’s link to the CNN story says that the vaccine prevents about 105 deaths from pediatric chicken pox in the US every year and around 12,000 hospitalizations. It also says that adults are at 20 times the risk of dying from chicken pox. We also know that about 20% of the people who get the vaccine will get chicken pox (though hopefully in a milder form), and presumably this is now more likely to happen when they are adults.

The facts in the above paragraph don’t prove the vaccine is bad or good; they are merely incomplete. As is pointed out in the comments underneath the linked article, 105 deaths a year is vanishingly few from a public health perspective.

I’m still interested to know what the impact of the vaccine is on the likelihood of catching chicken pox as an adult and what the outcomes of such cases tend to be. If it is 100% certain that adults who catch chicken pox after having been vaccinated will escape serious complications,* okay fine. But the vaccine will have to be pretty darn effective to help all of these adults, if chicken pox is in essence 20 times as severe in adults as it is in kids. And, with only an 80% success rate, this does not seem like a particularly effective vaccine.

Anyway, from reading this thread, the link, and the comments below the link, I’m ending up glad my child has chicken pox - no more lifelong worry about boosters.

  • Yeah I know that isn’t realistic but you know what I mean: if the outcomes are so improved that it we’re saving enough lives/preventing enough hospitalizations to make the outcomes better with the vaccine than without it.

“It seems” like you are making a statement with no proof to back it up. Got some?

An acquaintance of mine developed a form of blood cancer (I can’t think of the exact name at this time) and was put on chemo therapy. After his second treatment, he developed shingles. Apparently, that is rather common. The chemo suppresses your immune system and the viruses come out of hiding and do their damage.

Adding shingles to all the other effects of having cancer and chemo is just mind-boggling.

By the way, that was a few years ago. It looks like he is beating the cancer.

Since the vaccine contains no live virus the vaccine can NOT give you shingles!

It’s getting chicken pox that puts you at risk for shingles.

The CDC even admits preventing the few chicken pox deaths annually was not the major benefit of the vaccine, but rather the 12,000 hospitalizations.

Also, the longer the vaccine is in service, the closer chicken pox comes to being wiped out entirely. It can’t spread among people who are already immune, and fewer sick kids means a smaller likelihood that an unprotected adult will catch it. In 20 years when chicken pox is as “old news” as smallpox is now, it will be because of the vaccine.

Sorry, missed the edit window, wanted to add:
PS - Thanks for the good wishes for my son; he’s fine and experiencing very little discomfort. He’s even being mature about handling the disappointment over losing out on most or all of his weekend plans (he was scheduled to go to TWO laser tag parties, one on Sat and one on Sun - lucky boy!)

Why the hostility? I’m try to discuss this rationally. Did you notice that I am ASKING for the statistics? That is precisely my point in posting this thread. I want to be educated.

Vulnerability to shingles is a consequence of having been infected with chicken pox earlier in life. If a chicken pox vaccine had been successful and prevented infection as a child, your acquaintance could not possibly have developed shingles. The chicken pox vaccine is guaranteed to reduce the number of shingles cases as the people who received it start getting old. The kids of people who are being born today (at least in first world countries where the chicken pox vaccine is being distributed) will likely have no idea what shingles is.


I am thirty seven and have not had chicken pox. Infected kids scare me. The less infected kids there are the easier my peace of mind and the lower my likelihood of getting what is apparently a nasty illness.

I simply don’t have the time to go hunt down what you’re looking for, though I’d suggest that the CDC is a good place to start, but I suspect that a lot of the statistic you’d like to see simply don’t exist yet. The vaccine just hasn’t been around for long enough yet for reliable statistics to have been measured. You might be able to get estimates or reasonable assumptions, but statistic may be hard to come by.