Chickenpox Vaccine Slashes Virus by 90 Percent

Parents, too, may lack concern over the potential health and financial implications of the illness. Some still adhere to the tradition of "chickenpox sleepovers," in which non-infected children are exposed to infected children in order to expose them to the illness, in essence allowing parents to plan for when their kids fall ill and subsequently develop chickenpox immunity.

"It is irresponsible for parents to purposefully expose their children to a wild-type virus when there is a vaccine available," Slifka says. "The vaccine is a vastly weaker strain of the same virus, and therefore much safer and with fewer side effects or disease complications."

"The chickenpox party is very 'old school,'" Freed says. "The key is having parents understand they can prevent disease.

"Even if the risk of hospitalization and death is relatively low, their children no longer need to experience the discomfort and suffering that is associated with chickenpox."

The End of Chickenpox?

But while a dose of the varicella vaccination may be effective -- and two doses even more so -- researchers say we are still a long way off from eradicating the illness.

"Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will get rid of chickenpox in our lifetime," Slifka says, adding that the virus can "hide" in the body of seemingly healthy individuals, re-emerging years later in the form of shingles. "Since it can hide in otherwise healthy people for so long before 'jumping out' as infectious virus, it will be nearly impossible to completely eradicate it -- at least with the current vaccines that we have available at this time."

But the vaccine is a start. And Freed says that parents who downplay the importance of the vaccine or fear its use in their children must bear in mind the risks of the illness.

"The risk of the vaccine is far less than the risk of the disease," he says.

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