Why do some folks think that the chickenpox vaccine can cause meningitis?
Because they are misrepresenting a case report about two vaccinated teens who later developed shingles and meningitis, with a vaccine strain of chickenpox.
Can the Chickenpox Vaccine Cause Meningitis?
While that does sound like the chickenpox vaccine caused them to have meningitis, since it was a vaccine strain, it is very important to keep in mind that a natural chickenpox infection can do the exact same thing.
“Like wild-type virus, vOka can establish latency in sensory ganglia after immunization and may reactivate, leading to HZ.”Harrington et al on Vaccine Oka Varicella Meningitis in Two Adolescents
Anyway, as can happen after a natural chickenpox infection, these two vaccinated teens developed shingles (HZ or herpes zoster).
“vOka varicella rarely results in meningitis, which is thought to occur after reactivation in a proximal dorsal root ganglion with spread to the central nervous system.”Harrington et al on Vaccine Oka Varicella Meningitis in Two Adolescents
Unfortunately, whether the reactivation occurs after getting the chickenpox vaccine or a natural chickenpox infection, it can cause meningitis, as it did with these two teens.
So why get vaccinated?
In addition to avoiding chickenpox and its complications, getting vaccinated and protected with the chickenpox vaccine lowers your risk of later developing shingles.
“Viral meningitis accounts for approximately 26,000 to 42,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States, affecting mainly infants younger than one year, children 5–10 years of age, and the immunocompromised. Varicella Zoster virus is responsible for about 11% of those cases. Varicella can infrequently lead to Encephalitis resulting in seizures and coma (estimated 1.8 per 10,000). Other rare but serious complications of VZV include transverse myelitis, guillain-barré syndrome, thrombocytopenia, hemorrhagic varicella, purpura fulminans, glomerulonephritis, myocarditis, arthritis, and hepatitis.”Gnoni et al on Varicella Zoster aseptic meningitis: Report of an atypical case in an immunocompetent patient treated with oral valacyclovir
And if you don’t get shingles, you shouldn’t get meningitis!
“To the best of our knowledge, these are the first cases of vOka meningitis described in adolescent patients who received 2 doses of varicella vaccine.”Harrington et al on Vaccine Oka Varicella Meningitis in Two Adolescents
Although these teens were vaccinated, there are even more case reports of unvaccinated children and adults developing chickenpox (varicella zoster) meningitis and shingles (herpes zoster) meningitis.
That’s one of the reasons that these are life-threatening diseases that most of us try to avoid by getting vaccinated and protected!
As much as anti-vax folks are sharing this case report, it isn’t a good reason to skip or delay your child’s chickenpox vaccines. In fact, not getting vaccinated will almost certainly raise your child’s risk of developing chickenpox meningitis, from the natural strain.
More On Meningitis After the Chickenpox Vaccine
- Does the Chicken Pox Vaccine Protect You from Shingles?
- Did Bobby Kennedy Admit That Chickenpox Kills People?
- Who Dies from Chicken Pox?
- 10 Myths About Chicken Pox and the Chicken Pox Vaccine
- Believe It or Not, Chicken Pox Parties Are Still a Thing
- More Questions to Help You Become a Vaccine Skeptic
- Ask the Experts About Chicken Pox
- CDC – Chickenpox Complications
- Study – Vaccine Oka Varicella Meningitis in Two Adolescents
- Study – Complications of herpes zoster in children
- Study – Herpes zoster and meningitis in an immunocompetent child: a case report
- Study – Varicella Zoster aseptic meningitis: Report of an atypical case in an immunocompetent patient treated with oral valacyclovir
- Jessica’s Meningitis Story
- Five Varicella Deaths That Could Have Been Prevented
- Chickenpox Vaccine and Shingles Risk
- A Recent Case Report Highlights Why Skipping the Chickenpox Vaccine is a Bad Idea