Chickenpox Vaccine for My Child?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

My children were not vaccinated against chickenpox. When they were young, we were living in Europe, where the medical community does not encourage immunization against this disease. Consequently, my kids developed chickenpox at an early age, during one month in which over 30 children in our neighborhood became infected.

I had, in fact, planned to have the children immunized for chickenpox on our next visit to the U.S., but the infection came before that happened. My oldest child, who was 4 at the time, contracted chickenpox from a friend at preschool. He hardly suffered at all; there were perhaps only 20 or 25 skin lesions in total. Not so for my youngest two children, then aged 2 and a half and 16 months. Because their exposure came from their older brother at home ("prolonged" exposures in the home can lead to more severe disease than casual or onetime exposures) they were both covered from head to toe with the itchy spots. Even the membranes of their mouths and eyes were affected, and they were listless with fever. While no serious complications developed, they were decidedly miserable and uncomfortable for days.

Living in Europe and talking with other parents, I encountered a good bit of skepticism about the chickenpox vaccine in use in the U.S. While hardly anyone considered the vaccine to be dangerous, most felt it wasn't necessary to vaccinate a child against what they perceived to be a "harmless" disease that even "strengthened" their child's immune system.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014