Los Angeles Times
Children whose parents refuse to let them be vaccinated for chickenpox are nine times as likely as vaccinated children to develop chickenpox that requires medical attention, researchers reported this week.
Although the conclusion may seem self-evident, it reflects a growing problem with childhood immunizations, said epidemiologist Jason M. Glanz of Kaiser Permanente's Institute for Health Research in Denver, lead author of the report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Immunizations have been so successful, he said, that some parents are becoming more concerned about the risks of vaccines than they are about the illness.
''Vaccines are becoming victims of their own success,'' he said.
The vaccine for chickenpox, formally known as varicella, is one parents are most likely to skip because they believe the disease is the least serious preventable childhood illness. But before the varicella vaccine was introduced in 1995, about 4 million U.S. children contracted chickenpox every year, with 10,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths. Those figures have been reduced by more than 80 percent.
Chickenpox is characterized by a high fever, an itchy rash, red spots or blisters all over the body, and malaise. It also renders children more susceptible to other infections and can leave permanent scarring.
Complications can be especially severe in children with compromised immune systems due to AIDS, certain other diseases and anti-rejection treatments after transplants. Such children frequently cannot be immunized, and the best way to prevent them from falling ill is to inoculate other children in the community.