Deaths from chickenpox (the varicella virus) have dropped 97 percent in adolescents and children since the use of the vaccine began in 1995, new analysis shows.
“I think there’s certainly the potential for very little disease in the future and very few deaths if we are to fully implement and maintain that program,” said Jane Seward, deputy director, Division of Viral Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study appears in journal Pediatrics. Researchers from the CDC looked at data from 1990 to 2007.
“Every kid did get chickenpox and, in the pre-vaccine era, there were 3-4 million cases a year,” Seward said. “What people may not have realized, every year, about 105 people died of chickenpox. About half of those were children and about 11,000-12,000 were hospitalized with severe complications. We started preventing the disease to really prevent those very serious complications.”
Among adults younger than 50, the decline was 96 percent; overall, the decline was 88 percent. Seward pointed out that adults get more serious chickenpox than children and also need two doses of the vaccine.
“They have about twenty times higher risk of dying from chickenpox than children do. So it is really important for adults who haven’t had chickenpox to get the vaccine.”