Let’s have a talk about chicken pox and vaccines shall we?
In the UK we don’t vaccinate against chicken pox, it’s considered a bit of a right of passage to get your spot on and itch your way to a natural immunity. I’ve watched all three of my children develop chicken pox, suffer their way through them in varying degrees and we’ve even had friends that have asked to come over to “get it out the way” – pretty standard Brit behaviour. Not that we all sit around with a scone (it’s pronounced S-Cone and the jam goes first) and a cuppa watching our kids contract potentially dangerous illnesses. Nope, it’s just chicken pox that gets the elite treatment – a pox party is a thing guys, even in 2019, even when we apparently have vaccines available.
I remember with all of my children posting on my Instagram account that the kids had chicken pox and instantly being lambasted by American followers for not having my kids vaccinated. Que their horror when I told them that we don’t vaccinate kids against chicken pox here, at all, and in fact until Toby I wasn’t even aware there WAS a vaccine. Fast forward from Toby’s splash down to post natal moi sat in the drs office when Edith was due her vaccines and asking whether or not she could or should have the chicken pox vaccine. The Dr actually laughed, full blown chuckles that suggested I was being totally unreasonable and asking that my child have a vaccine against the common cold.
If you’re in the UK and reading this, the consensus is generally that I’m being a bit precious – that there is nothing wrong with chicken pox, it’s just something that is better when the child is younger, hardly dangerous and more just uncomfortable, but let’s dissect that shit shall we?
Chicken pox in itself carries a low fatality rate, however there is the potential. Whilst the rates are low there is a risk to pregnant women, babies, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, meaning you really are at risk if your toddler (the most likely to catch it) suddenly starts to sport spots when you’re pregnant. Meaning that my mum was in agony with shingles for a week when Edith had chicken pox. Meaning that the very old lady who was doing her weekly shop, or the baby only born a few days ago at the checkout because mum needed lunch box snacks for her older kids, might not make it. At the moment you are offered the vaccine on the NHS if you pose a risk to someone who is undergoing chemotherapy, yet the majority of us are blissfully unaware of the fact that these vaccines even exist or we are laughed at when we suggest getting them.
Chicken pox might be unlikely to cause death, despite the fact that it can raise temperatures high enough to pose that risk, but it isn’t uncommon for people to suffer scarring from chicken pox, an unfortunate and avoidable occurrence. More seriously and perhaps the greatest risk from chicken pox is blisters near and around the eye region that can cause blindness. Agonising blisters around the genitals, in the mouth and sometimes (worryingly and medically concerning) in the throat. Why are we exposing kids to this when we have the vaccines for it? If it’s deemed necessary to vaccinate children who may come into contact with vulnerable family members, why aren’t we worried about the vulnerable woman in the supermarket?
That’s the kicker with chicken pox – it’s highly contagious 2 days before the spots sprout and 5 days after, so how are you to know if your child is infectious and protect those in society that are vulnerable?
How many times have you, as a parent, noted that your child is acting out of character, whether its just being a bit sleepier than usual or being a giant douchebag and crying endlessly at everything? How often have you passed it off as “just a bit grizzly” for your toddler to develop a stinker of a cold or virus? It’s the same principal as anything that we vaccinate against. We’re taught in the UK that Chicken pox is mild and that we just need to get it over with but that isn’t always the case, certainly not for the elderly or for anyone with poor immunity, and isn’t it our duty to protect these people too? I’m seeing more and more case of vicious chicken pox that are just totally unnecessary.
Having a chicken pox vaccine might not prevent you from getting chicken pox entirely and it doesn’t prevent you getting shingles later on in life, but knowing now what I do, if I was given the chance again I feel like I would take the vaccine, avoid the experience for the children but most importantly I would keep those that can’t vaccinate and are at risk safe.