Child with chickenpox
The number of deaths from chickenpox has plummeted since the vaccine became available in 1995, a study has found. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A new study has attributed the sharp drop in nationwide deaths from chickenpox to the vaccine that has been recommended since the mid-1990s. A long term survey of whether chickenpox vaccinations are effective found the number of people who died from the disease fell drastically after the vaccine was available.

Deaths from chickenpox down 88 percent

A medical study that is being published in the journal Pediatrics has found that since the vaccine for the disease known as chickenpox was made available in the mid-1990s, deaths from the disease have plummeted steeply, according to ABC. After the vaccine for the disease was available for more then a dozen years, the number of people dying from chicken pox dropped from an average of 105 per year to 14 per year. Vaccinations against chickenpox, the common name for the varicella zoster virus, have been available in the United States since 1995, according to Reuters, originally in a single vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control changed its recommendation to a two-stage vaccination in 2006. Since the vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in 1995, deaths from varicella have dropped 88 percent.

Cost of treatment also plummets

Chickenpox deaths were rare before the invention of the vaccine, the lethality of the disease pales in comparison to the social cost. Though few died from it, thousands were hospitalized annually from chickenpox, according to USA Today. Before widespread vaccination, 150 or fewer people died from the disease every year, but 11,000 were admitted to the hospital for complications from a varicella infection, which can develop into pneumonia, encephalitis or necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria. Prior to widespread vaccination, the annual healthcare cost of chickenpox was about $331 million for the 4 million annual cases of the disease, plus $1.5 billion in social costs, such as lost wages of parents who had to spend time away from work to care for a child who caught the disease. The CDC guidelines are currently that children receive the first dose of Varivax, the vaccine, between 12 and 18 months of age and another dose between 6 and 8 years of age. Each dose costs about $84.

Old diseases making a comeback

One of the most common vaccinations for the past few decades has been the MMR shot, or a vaccination for Measles, Mumps and Rubella. However, some of these diseases are starting to make a comeback. Overseas outbreaks of measles, according to the Los Angeles Times, have resulted in an uptick in the number of people with cases of measles in the U.S., as infected travelers return and spread the disease. The CDC reported 156 cases so far this year. A growing number of cases of measles was also noted in New Zealand, according to the Bay of Plenty Times. Part of the problem, according to NPR, is a growing worldwide trend of people mistrusting vaccines for a variety of reasons, including the contested link between MMR vaccinations and autism. Infections rise as a result of fewer vaccinations.

Sources

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory?id=14149499

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/25/us-deaths-with-vaccine-idUSTRE76O0YJ20110725

USA Today: http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/pediatrics/story/2011/07/Vaccine-has-nearly-eliminated-chickenpox-deaths-in-children/49642072/1

Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/09/news/la-trb-cdc-measles-travel-20110706

Bay of Plenty Times: http://www.bayofplentytimes.co.nz/local/news/measles-jab-warning-for-all-ages/3958573/

NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/07/25/138672535/vaccine-mistrust-spreading-to-the-developing-world?ps=sh_sthdl

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