Tag: chicken pox deaths

People with Cancer Are at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids

We know that kids with cancer aren’t at risk from shedding if someone has recently been vaccinated.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.
Johns Hopkins Medicine, which includes the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System went out of their way to correct this anti-vaccine misinformation.

The real risk comes from those who are unvaccinated.

People with Cancer Are at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids

Confused on how that works?

Kids with cancer typically have a compromised immune system, so are at greater risk for getting sick and catching infectious diseases. This includes a risk from vaccine-preventable diseases because they often can’t be vaccinated and any vaccines they had in the past might no longer provide protection.

Don’t believe me?

Want some examples?

  • a 6-year-old girl who was in remission for ALL and had just received her final dose of chemotherapy was admitted with fever and neutropenia, found to have measles, and died after 28 days of intense therapy (1989)
  • an 8-year-old being treated for leukemia developed chicken pox and died two weeks later (1998)
  • a partially vaccinated 4-year-old girl who was being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was exposed to a cousin with chicken pox and later developed multi-organ failure and died (2012)
  • a 26-year-old man who was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia died in Switzerland after he became infected with measles (2017)
  • a 6-year-old boy with leukemia died in Italy after catching measles from his intentionally unvaccinated sibling (2017)

Of course, there are many more, including many kids with cancer who get exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease and have to get treated with immunoglobulin and hope they don’t get sick. And many more who do get sick and are treated in the hospital for weeks and months and thankfully, get better.

And there are even more who get caught up in quarantines because they have true medical contraindications to getting vaccinated, and so have to stay home from school with the intentionally unvaccinated kids whenever there is an outbreak of measles or chicken pox, etc.

What can we do about this?

Vaccinate our kids! We have a choice. These kids with cancer don’t.

More on People with Cancer at Risk from Unvaccinated Kids

Making Sense of Anti-Vaccine Arguments

Have you ever tried to understand or make sense out of the things anti-vaccine folks say?

How did it go?

Making Sense of Anti-Vaccine Arguments

Consider what a group of anti-vaccine folks did with the above post about a child with severe complications to a chicken pox infection…

It's always a vaccine injury...
It’s always a vaccine injury…

What are some of the big complications of chicken pox infections? Complications that help make chicken pox deadly?

That’s right, secondary skin and soft tissue bacterial infections (cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis). In fact, bacterial super-infections of the skin are the most common complication of chicken pox infections.

“Necrotizing fasciitis can lead to sepsis, shock, and organ failure. It can also result in life-long complications from loss of limbs or severe scarring due to surgically removing infected tissue. Even with treatment, up to 1 in 3 people with necrotizing fasciitis die from the infection.”

Necrotizing Fasciitis: All You Need to Know

No, chicken pox is not necrotizing fasciitis, but all of the breaks in the skin from chicken pox lesions give bacteria, including group A Streptococcus (group A strep) and Staphylococcus aureus, plenty of opportunities to enter a child’s body and quickly spread.

No one in the Netherlands dies with chicken pox???
No one in the Netherlands dies with chicken pox???

We often hear that chicken pox isn’t serious in other countries that don’t routinely use the chicken pox vaccine. Don’t believe them.

On average, about two young children die in the Netherlands each year due to chicken pox.

“Based on the results presented in this study we estimate that between 3 to 8% of all Dutch patients with varicella, depending on age, consult a GP due to a complication. Our findings are similar to data from Germany, France and the United States of America, were it is estimated that in approximately 2 to 6% of cases attending a general practice. Furthermore of these varicella patients 1.7% experiences complications severe enough to seek hospital care.”

Pierik et al on Epidemiological characteristics and societal burden of varicella zoster virus in the Netherlands

And folks in the Netherlands have similar rates of complications as we did in the United States in the pre-vaccine era and many are hospitalized.

Do you understand what’s happening in these comments? When folks choose to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, they will work hard to justify their decision.

Escaping cognitive dissonance explains a lot of anti-vaccine arguments.
Escaping cognitive dissonance explains a lot of anti-vaccine arguments.

That’s not surprising.

“the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”

cognitive dissonance definition

If you aren’t going to vaccinate your kids, do you want to think that you are leaving them at risk for such a serious complication, even if it is rare, or will you make up reasons for why the story can’t possibly be true?

Now these folks become skeptics?
Now these folks become skeptics?

Sure, these folks believe every vaccine injury story on Facebook without any proof, but all of a sudden they all become skeptics when faced with a story highlighting the known complications of a vaccine-preventable disease.

That’s the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Making Sense of Anti-Vaccine Arguments

Ethics and Vaccines

A lot of ethical issues come up around discussions of vaccines and vaccination.

Of course, when you talk about ethics and vaccines, you shouldn’t just think about vaccine mandates and informed consent, but also about the ethics of skipping or delaying vaccines and putting others at risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.

And there are also ethical issues around spreading misinformation and propaganda about vaccines (misinformed consent) to scare people away from getting vaccinated and protected.

Ethics and Vaccines

Does it surprise you that many folks don’t actually understand what the real ethical issues are in the “vaccine debate?”

Questions about ethics often come up when Dr. Bob talks about vaccines.
Questions about ethics often come up when Dr. Bob talks about vaccines.

To begin with, there is no real vaccine debate.

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

“But how can anything with known side effects be forced, knowing some will definitely be harmed?”

Dr. Bob Sears

Dr. Bob’s statement helps illustrate why this isn’t a debate.

No one is forced to get vaccinated.

And how can you say that “some will definitely be harmed” without defining what some actually means?

Severe reactions to vaccines are very rare. Fortunately, they are even more rare than the risks of a complication from a vaccine-preventable disease. And that’s why the great majority of people choose (they aren’t forced) to vaccinate and protect their kids.

Remember, a vaccine mandate that says you have to be vaccinated to attend daycare or school does not force anyone to get vaccinated. Folks still have a choice to not get vaccinated, even without access to non-medical vaccine exemptions, although they might not like what that choice entails, such as homeschooling or not being able to attend daycare or summer camp.

What about the idea of community responsibility?

Should you vaccinate your child just to protect everyone else in the community or should you just try to hide in the herd?

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center FAQ on the Use of Vaccines

Of course you should vaccinate them. But in getting them vaccinated and protected, you are not just protecting everyone else in the community. Getting vaccinated also protects your own child!

Similarly, when you skip or delay your child’s vaccines, it is not just your own child that is put at risk. If they get sick, especially since many vaccine-preventable diseases have long incubation periods and you can be contagious before you show symptoms, they can expose others and get them sick too. Where’s their choice?

If the people they expose are too young to be vaccinated, too young to be fully vaccinated and protected, or anyone with a problem with their immune system, the results can be tragic.

Is it ethical that someone decides to skip or delay their child’s vaccines and then, through no fault of their own, someone else dies after getting exposed to this unvaccinated child when they develop measles or chicken pox?

Remember the measles outbreaks of 2015? In addition to the large Disney Land measles outbreak, 2015 was infamous for a smaller outbreak in Clallam County.

“The death of a Clallam County woman this spring was due to an undetected measles infection that was discovered at autopsy. The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County. She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles. The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system. She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles. This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles.”

Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman

There were five measles cases in that 2015 Clallam County, Washington outbreak, including four who were not vaccinated. The outbreak cost at least $223,223 to contain and led to the death of a woman who just happened to be at a health clinic as one of the infected people.

Want to dismiss this case as being too rare to worry about? Just look at what is happening across Europe, with the rise in measles cases and measles deaths over the last few years.

Ethically, why should you vaccinate?

That’s easy, so that your kids don’t get a life-threatening vaccine-preventable disease. And so that they don’t expose others, potentially giving them a life-threatening disease that they are too young to be vaccinated against, couldn’t be vaccinated against because they had a true medical exemption, or were vaccinated against but are still susceptible to because they now have a problem with their immune system.

Are vaccine preventable diseases not common enough for you to be concerned about these days? You know that’s because most folks vaccinate their kids, don’t you? Do we need to go back to the pre-vaccine era before more vaccine-hesitant parents will start vaccinating their kids?

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”


Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

What about the risks of vaccines?

While vaccines are not 100% safe, they do not cause all of the vaccine injuries and vaccine-induced diseases that anti-vaccine folks push. The real risk is believing their propaganda and leaving your child unvaccinated and unprotected.

“It is UNETHICAL to expect me to sacrifice my child for yours—especially when I know that sacrifice won’t even stop the disease from spreading. It’s time for people to stop touting their “moral superiority and selflessness” when it comes to this topic; because if you really understood how this all works, there would be nothing for you to be proud of.”

Melissa Floyd (she apparently does a podcast with Dr. Bob)

Here is where the misinformed consent comes in and ethics go out the window:

And for the record, few of us think that we are morally superior to anyone else for vaccinating and protecting our kids. We just understand that many anti-vaccine folks are victims of their cognitive biases and need to do more research. And we know that it is UNETHICAL for parents to sacrifice their kids to anti-vaccine propaganda.

More on Ethics and Vaccines

Can You Still Get Shingles After Having the Chicken Pox Vaccine?

It is very easy to get confused when thinking or talking about chicken pox and shingles.

Remembering a few things should help though:

  • shingles (herpes zoster) is a reactivation of chicken pox (varicella zoster) – since they are caused by the same virus, you had to have been exposed to the chicken pox virus (varicella zoster virus) to later get shingles
  • exposure to the chicken pox virus can come from a natural chicken pox infection or from getting vaccinated against chicken pox, as it is a live, attenuated vaccine (Varivax)

So no, getting the chicken pox vaccine will not prevent you from later getting shingles. The shingles vaccine is a different vaccine that is given to seniors to help prevent them from getting shingles.

Can You Still Get Shingles After Having the Chicken Pox Vaccine?

Have you ever heard of a child vaccinated against chicken pox getting shingles? It can happen. It’s not a vaccine injury.

Remember that you can get shingles at any age – it is not just a disease of senior citizens. Even preschools or teens can get shingles, with the risk increasing with age.

Although rare, even infants can develop shingles, most commonly if their mothers had a chicken pox infection while pregnant.
Although rare, even infants can develop shingles, most commonly if their mothers had a chicken pox infection while pregnant. Photo by Kaoutar Zinelabidine et al.

Although the chicken pox vaccine won’t prevent you from getting shingles, it does work well to prevent you from getting chicken pox.

And it is thought that getting vaccinated and protected against chicken pox will decrease your risk of later getting shingles, even before you ever get the shingles vaccine.

“In the early post-varicella vaccination period, incidence rates of medically attended herpes zoster did not increase for the overall population and decreased moderately for children 9 years and younger, the age group targeted for varicella vaccination.”

Tanuseputro et al on Population-based incidence of herpes zoster after introduction of a publicly funded varicella vaccination program

No chicken pox and a lower risk of shingles?

I’m glad my kids are fully vaccinated!

More on Shingles and the Chicken Pox Vaccine

Where Are the Latest Chickenpox Outbreaks?

Breaking News – 7 new cases of chicken pox in North Carolina, as outbreak grows to 41 cases (see below)

Chicken pox is a now vaccine-preventable disease thanks to the chicken pox vaccine that was first licensed in 1995.

Despite being added to the childhood immunization schedule in 1996, and the addition of a booster dose in 2007, we do continue to see occasional outbreaks of chicken pox.

Chicken Pox

Although chicken pox is said to have been a rite of passage for kids, it was never something that any of us looked forward to.

At best, you had five to seven days of fever and an itchy rash that covered your body.

“My life changed forever on June 30, 1988, when I had to stand by helplessly as an infectious disease claimed the life of my oldest child, Christopher Aaron Chinnes, at the age of 12.”

Rebecca Cole on Chickenpox Claimed the Life of My Son Christopher

But of course, some people had much more severe cases of chicken pox and some people died.

Chicken Pox Outbreaks

In the pre-vaccine era, before the mid-1990s, most kids got chicken pox.

And chicken pox parties, while not as common as some folks imagine, were definitely a thing, because you didn’t want your child to become an adult and get chicken pox, when it was more dangerous. But since most kids got chicken pox so easily, most got it when they were kids, even without a chicken pox parties, and tragically, many learned that it wasn’t only dangerous to adults.

Why are we still seeing clusters of chicken pox in schools when a safe and effective vaccine is readily available?
Why are we still seeing clusters of chicken pox in schools when a safe and effective vaccine is readily available?

These days, most cases and outbreaks of chicken pox are in unvaccinated children and adults.

  • 7 new cases in the outbreak associated with the Asheville Waldorf School in West Asheville, North Carolina, bringing the case count to 41 in that outbreak, including 4 cases in the community as the outbreak continues to spread (Nov 2018)
  • 6 new cases at the Asheville Waldorf School in West Asheville, North Carolina, bringing the case count to 34 in that outbreak (Nov 2018)
  • several students at Hoquiam High School in Hoquiam, Washington (Nov 2018)
  • at least 28 cases at Asheville Waldorf School in West Asheville, North Carolina (Nov 2018)
  • at least 5 cases at Daybreak Primary School in Battle Ground in Clark County, Washington, leading to quarantine of at least 38 unvaccinated students who will be kept out of class for at least 21 days (Oct 2018)
  • at least 5 cases at two schools in Ottawa County, Michigan, including Waukazoo Elementary and Kids First – Early Childhood Center in Jenison, leading to the quarantine of at least 34 children (Oct 2018)
  • a cluster of chicken pox cases in Grant County, Washington at Park Orchard Elementary, North Elementary and Longview Elementary schools (Sept 2018)
  • at least 5 cases at the The Little Red School House Too daycare in Westbrook, Maine (May 2016)

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg though, as there are still about 7,000 to 10,000 chickenpox cases reported in the United States each year. And that’s with some states, like Oregon and Washington, not reporting cases of this Nationally Notifiable Condition to the CDC.

Cognitive dissonance helps explain how these folks try to explain that chicken pox isn't dangerous.
Cognitive dissonance helps explain how these folks try to explain that chicken pox isn’t dangerous.

Still, since chicken pox caused a few hundred deaths and at least 10,000 hospitalizations each year less than twenty-five years ago, that’s a lot of progress.

Getting Chicken Pox

How do you get chicken pox?

Since it is very contagious, if your child is exposed to someone with chicken pox or shingles, then they might develop chicken pox in about 10 to 21 days (incubation period).

Of course, if they vaccinated and protected, then they probably won’t, although mild, breakthrough chicken pox infections are still possible in vaccinated kids.

Their risk is higher if they:

  • are unvaccinated, either intentionally, because they have a true medical exemption, or because they are too young for the vaccine, which is first given when kids are 12-months-old
  • are partially vaccinated, with only one dose of the chicken pox vaccine
  • have a problem with their immune system, including kids getting chemotherapy

In addition to being at risk for chicken pox, non-immune pregnant women, newborns born to women who develop chicken pox at around the time of delivery, premature babies, and those are immunocompromised can be at risk for severe disease.

Avoiding Chicken Pox

Want to avoid chicken pox and the chance of ending up in a chicken pox quarantine and having to stay out of school for 3 weeks or more?

Get your kids vaccinated.

That’s not an option for some kids with true medical exemptions though, including most kids who are immunocompromised. When they get caught up in one of these outbreaks and get exposed to chicken pox, it becomes a matter of life and death to work to try and prevent their getting chicken pox.

More on Chicken Pox Outbreaks

Updated on December 6, 2018

10 Myths About Chicken Pox and the Chicken Pox Vaccine

You remember chicken pox, don’t you?

Is this really a disease that we need to vaccinate our kids against?

Obviously, the folks who posted the following comments don’t seem to think so.

It is just as obvious that they are wrong though.

That she doesn't understand survivorship bias doesn't mean that you shouldn't vaccinate your kids.
That she doesn’t understand survivorship bias doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids.

No one ever says that chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rubella kills everyone that gets them.

Even in the pre-vaccine era, when measles would kill 500 people a year in the United States, there is a very good chance that you wouldn’t have known anyone that died of measles. Of course, that doesn’t mean that nobody died of measles or chicken pox or any other now vaccine-preventable disease.

You likely know someone that plays football, right? Maybe on a youth football team or in middle school or high school? Do you know anyone that plays on a team in the NFL? While millions of kids might play football, only a few thousand play in the NFL.

Benign diseases don't kill kids.
Benign diseases don’t kill kids.

Chicken pox was never a benign disease. It was considered a rite of passage because we all had to endure it, but it wasn’t something anyone looked forward to. You don’t die from a benign disease.

Trying to scare people into thinking that vaccines are poison... Anti-vaccine propaganda is all about fear.
Trying to scare people into thinking that vaccines are poison… Anti-vaccine propaganda is all about fear.

Part of that is actually true – “they keep you a customer for life” because you didn’t die from a vaccine-preventable disease!

The UK doesn't haven't routinely vaccinate against chicken pox, but they do have chicken pox deaths...
The UK doesn’t routinely vaccinate against chicken pox, but they do have chicken pox deaths and the same rise in shingles rates…

Many countries don’t have the chicken pox vaccine on their routine immunization schedule because they don’t think it is cost-effective and they were concerned about what controlling chicken pox could do to rates of shingles.

“About 3 in every 1000 pregnant women in the UK catch chickenpox. Between 1985 and 1998, nine pregnant women died in the UK from chickenpox complications. Their unborn babies are also at risk from a rare condition called foetal varicella syndrome (FVS). This can result in serious long-term damage to the baby or even death, particularly if the mother catches chickenpox in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Vaccine Knowledge Project on Chickenpox (Varicella)

These countries have the same rates of shingles as countries that do use the chicken pox vaccine, but still have high rates of chicken pox and complications of chicken pox!

The UK does not vaccinate for chicken pox, but young, otherwise healthy kids die with chicken pox in the UK.

Don't trust the CDC, but do trust anyone with a website or Facebook page that says what you want to believe.
Don’t trust the CDC, but do trust anyone with a website or Facebook page that says what you want to believe…

Most folks should understand that when anti-vaccine folks say “do your research,” they mean look at their websites and Facebook groups that regurgitate misinformation and anti-vaccine propaganda.

Natural immunity is not better than vaccine induced immunity when you consider the risks of a natural infection, which can include death.
Natural immunity is not better than vaccine induced immunity when you consider the risks of a natural infection, which can include death.

We don’t need disease.

There is no diet that will help you beat chicken pox.
There is no diet that will help you beat chicken pox.

While you will be at higher risk for complications from chicken pox and most other diseases if you have a compromised immune system or are malnourished, if you are otherwise healthy, there is nothing you can do to boost your immune system to try and beat chicken pox – besides getting vaccinated.

Homeopathic vaccines do nothing.
Homeopathic vaccines do nothing.

There is also no homeopathic remedy or homeopathic vaccine that can help you avoid chicken pox.

Adults don't need boosters to most vaccines, so actually are up-to-date and immune to most diseases.
Adults don’t need boosters to most vaccines, so actually are up-to-date and immune to most diseases.

The chicken pox vaccine provides long lasting protection. Ironically, anti-vaccine folks often misunderstand how herd immunity works, the one thing that can protect their unvaccinated kids as they try to hide in the herd

Chicken pox parties were never as common as folks think they were, but when done, it was out of necessity, as we didn't have a vaccine.
Chicken pox parties were never as common as folks think they were, but when done, it was out of necessity, as we didn’t have a vaccine.

Chicken pox parties kind of made sense in the pre-vaccine era. Since it was inevitable that your child would get chicken pox, you wanted them to get it at a young age, so they weren’t at increased risk for complications as an adult.

But intentionally exposing your child to a life-threatening infection when a safe and effective vaccine is available?

Do your research. Get vaccinated and protected.

More on Chicken Pox Myths

Who Dies from Chicken Pox?

Chicken pox is supposed to be a mild disease, right?

A rite of passage for kids?

“My life changed forever on June 30, 1988, when I had to stand by helplessly as an infectious disease claimed the life of my oldest child, Christopher Aaron Chinnes, at the age of 12.”

Rebecca Cole on Chickenpox Claimed the Life of My Son Christopher

Sure, a deadly rite of passage that we had to hope that our kids got through unscathed…

Who Dies from Chicken Pox?

Believe it or not, some folks continue to think that chicken pox was never deadly, even as kids continue to die from this now vaccine-preventable disease.

Remember, the chicken pox vaccine was added to the vaccine schedule way back in 1996, after being licensed in 1995.

Chicken pox can kill quickly.
Chicken pox can kill quickly.

Tragically, there are plenty of stories and case reports that prove them wrong:

  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 23-month-old boy developed chicken pox and died three weeks later after developing sepsis, possible viral meningoencephalitis, bacterial endocarditis, and heart failure. (1996)
  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 21-month old developed chicken pox and died four days later because of hemorrhagic complications (1997)
  • an unvaccinated 5-year-old boy with asthma was treated with one dose of prednisone at home for an asthma attack while recovering from chicken pox and died the next day (1997)
  • a healthy, unvaccinated 6-year-old boy developed chicken pox, was hospitalized three days later, and died the next day (1998)
  • an 8-year-old being treated for leukemia developed chicken pox and died two weeks later (1998)
  • an unvaccinated 9-year-old girl was exposed to an unvaccinated children with chicken pox in after-school child care and school, developed chicken pox and died three days later with secondary cellulitis and sepsis. (2002)
  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 11-year-old girl developed septic shock and died soon after being admitted to a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. (2002)
  • an unvaccinated 12-year-old boy was exposed to an unvaccinated classmate with chickenpox, developed chicken pox two weeks later, was admitted to the hospital after three days because of trouble breathing, and died on his second hospital day after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest. (2003)
  • an unvaccinated 10-year-old girl developed chicken pox, with worsening 10 days later, including ataxia and mental status changes. After being hospitalized for three days, she began to have seizures  and was declared brain dead the next day. (2004)
  • an unvaccinated 14-month-old girl developed chicken pox and worsened over the next three to five days. She eventually developed septic shock, was treated in an ER, and died within one hour of being transferred to a children’s hospital for further care. (2004)
  • a previously healthy, unvaccinated 15-year-old developed chicken pox, was admitted to the hospital three days later in septic shock, and died three weeks later. (2009)
  • a partially vaccinated 4-year-old girl who was being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was exposed to a cousin with chicken pox and later developed multi-organ failure and died (2012)

Chicken pox has always been a deadly disease.

“In the prevaccine era, approximately 11,000 persons with varicella required hospitalization each year. Hospitalization rates were approximately 2 to 3 per 1,000 cases among healthy children and 8 per 1,000 cases among adults. Death occurred in approximately 1 in 60,000 cases. From 1990 through 1996, an average of 103 deaths from varicella were reported each year. Most deaths occur in immunocompetent children and adults”

Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Although chicken pox is definitely riskier if you are older and have pre-existing medical problems, as you can see from these kids who died, many were otherwise healthy and many were very young.

And almost all were unvaccinated, even though a safe and effective chicken pox vaccine could have prevented these deaths and probably the exposures that led to the deaths of the high risk kids being treated for cancer.

More on Chicken Pox Deaths