New recommendations on pox vaccine

February 16, 2007

Doctors are urging children to routinely get two shots against varicella instead of just one in an effort to prevent cases of chicken pox. Recommendations released recently by the American Academy of Pediatrics call for children to get a second dose of the varicella vaccine between the ages of 4 and 6.

Doctors are urging children to routinely get two shots against varicella instead of just one in an effort to prevent cases of chicken pox. Recommendations released recently by the American Academy of Pediatrics call for children to get a second dose of the varicella vaccine between the ages of 4 and 6.

Previous guidelines from the national group called for 1-year-olds to receive a single dose of the vaccine against varicella, the virus that causes chicken pox.

According to Joseph Bocchini, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases, one dose of the immunization is only about 85% effective, causing some vaccinated children to become afflicted with chicken pox. With a second dose, Bocchini said, the vaccine's effectiveness increases to about 95%.

More studies will be needed to determine whether additional shots will be needed in the future to protect against chicken pox outbreaks, Bocchini said. Experts are recommending that children get the second dose of varicella as part of an existing round of booster shots they get before starting kindergarten.

Blaise Congeni, MD, head of infectious diseases at Akron Children's Hospital, said older children and adults who previously received the varicella vaccine also should get a catch-up shot during a routine health visit.