Doctors Recommend Chickenpox Booster

Doctors with the Texas Medical Association are trying to get word out to parents that one chickenpox vaccination may not be enough to keep their children from coming down with the potentially deadly disease. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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One chickenpox shot is already part of the childhood immunization schedule, but Texas doctors are joining national health experts in recommending that children get a second shot. Austin pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown of the TMA's Be Wise - Immunize campaign says they now know that one shot may not be enough for some kids.

"About one in five kids who have been vaccinated will still get a mild case of the illness. And so what we're seeing is that if children actually get two doses they will be better protected, and so we'll reduce those breakthrough infections for kids who've been vaccinated."

Most children are vaccinated for chickenpox after their first birthday, but Dr. Brown says they're now recommending a booster shot at age four or five, the age most children are ready to start kindergarten. She says children over the age of five or six who've had only one shot since the vaccine came out in 1995 should also get the booster regardless of their age, and children of any age who never had the first shot should get both shots about two months apart. Brown says this is important because chickenpox is a very serious disease that can be deadly.

"Several thousands of people are hospitalized every year for chickenpox, prior to the vaccine coming out, and there were over a hundred deaths every year from chickenpox, so it's a disease that should be taken seriously and that's why it is important to get kids vaccinated and make sure they're protected."

Dr. Brown says chickenpox is one of the most contagious of all the childhood diseases.

"Chickenpox occurs in epidemics, so if one child in a classroom gets it there are often going to be several kids who get it, or in a household if one child gets it then the brothers and sisters frequently will get it, so it is extremely contagious."

Which means children in schools and day-care centers are the most vulnerable, and she urges parents to contact their doctor or local public health agency if they have any questions. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.