Tag: chickenpox

Can the Chickenpox Vaccine Cause Meningitis?

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

About That Chickenpox Outbreak in New York

Anti-vax folks really seem to be excited about a new case of chickenpox at a school in New York.

There is a case of chickenpox at a school in New York.
Made my day?

A case that wasn’t report until after they implemented new rules that eliminated religious vaccine exemptions.

About That Chickenpox Outbreak in New York

So does this chickenpox pox case or outbreak in New York somehow mean that their plan isn’t working?

Of course not!

For one thing, it is only one case.

Remember that chickenpox outbreak in Kentucky last Spring? At least 32 kids ended up getting chickenpox!

That shouldn’t happen at this school in New York, as there hopefully aren’t even 32 unvaccinated kids left to get sick. There might be though…

Wait, how could there be 32 unvaccinated kids if they have eliminated non-medical exemptions?

Well, since the law just went into effect at the start of this school year, kids likely haven’t had time to get fully vaccinated.

Wait, what?

Children who are not fully immunized can continue to attend school if they are in the process of completing the ACIP catch-up schedule or if they are otherwise exempt from immunization requirements. A school shall not refuse to admit a child based on immunization requirements, if that child is “in process.”

New York School Immunization Q&A

Also, for some reason, “students entering grades 5, 11 and12 for the 2018-19 school year are only required to have received one dose of varicella vaccine.”

Remember, to be considered fully vaccinated against chickenpox, kids should have two doses of the chickenpox vaccine.

So it should be easy to see that there may be students in New York schools who are only partially vaccinated.

What else?

The deadline for kids to get vaccinated was September 17 and the vaccine takes at least two weeks to work.

The case was reported on October 18.

Add in the 10 to 21 day incubation period and it is very possible that this was a student who was initially unvaccinated and developed chickenpox before his vaccine had time to work!

Whaddya know!!

Are there any other possibilities?

Could it simply be a student with breakthrough chickenpox? A child who was vaccinated, but developed chickenpox anyway?


While the chickenpox is said to be 100% effective at preventing severe cases of chickenpox, you can still sometimes get milder, breakthrough infections, even after two doses.

Or the case could be in a teacher or other school worker.

What about shedding?

While the chickenpox vaccine is said to rarely cause a rash, it typically occurs at the site of injection, so it is unlikely that it would be confused with a full blown case of chickenpox. And this rash rarely gets others sick.

The bottom line though is that with fewer fully unvaccinated students in school now, this is unlikely to develop into a big outbreak.

More on Chickenpox Outbreaks

Did Bobby Kennedy Admit That Chickenpox Kills People?

The usual talking point from folks who are anti-vax is that vaccine-preventable diseases are mild. Some even go so far to say that they are good for you! It isn’t too often that these folks admit that these diseases, from measles and polio to chickenpox, do indeed kill people.

Bobby Kennedy finally gets it right, admitting that chickenpox killed 100 people a year in the pre-vaccine era.
Having chickenpox doesn’t protect you from developing shingles – it’s why you develop shingles!

No, chickenpox doesn’t kill 1 in 100 people, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t die with chickenpox, especially if they are unvaccinated and unprotected.

Did Bobby Kennedy Admit That Chickenpox Kills People?

Do we want to go back to the days when more folks were dying with chickenpox?

“The total cost to theoretically save 50 children is approximately $900 million dollars or $17.5 million per life saved.”

Bobby Kennedy

What else does Bobby Kennedy say?

“Chickenpox can reactivate as shingles when an adult’s immunity wanes or is not boosted by periodic exposure to children with chickenpox. CDCs clinical studies predicted that widespread vaccination would double shingles rates among adults and children and precipitate a shingles epidemic. “

Bobby Kennedy

While it is true that chickenpox can reactivate as shingles, a bonus of getting vaccinated and protected with the chickenpox vaccine is that it actually decreases your risk of developing shingles later in life!

And those countries that didn’t vaccinate and protect their kids with the chickenpox vaccine, because they thought it might cause a later shingles epidemic if fewer kids were sick and boosting the immunity of adults who had already had chickenpox still saw a rise in shingles cases.

That’s probably why many of those countries are now considering adding the chickenpox vaccine to their schedule.

What else did Bobby Kennedy say?

“…chickenpox presents as a mild rash and slight fever and confers lifetime immunity to chickenpox and significant protection against shingles, heart disease, atopic diseases, and cancers including glioma, brain, and spinal tumors. “

Bobby Kennedy

The part about getting lifetime immunity to chickenpox is true.

Does chickenpox provide significant protection against heart disease, atopic disease, or cancer?


And of course, if you have ever had chickenpox, you know that it is far more than “a mild rash and a slight fever.”

Unvaccinated kids with chickenpox typically have 250 to 500 blisters over their entire body.
Unvaccinated kids with chickenpox typically have 250 to 500 blisters over their entire body. Photo courtesy CDC/ Dr. John Noble, Jr..

In a routine case of chickenpox, the fever typically rises to at least 102°F and lasts for at least 2 to 3 days, with the rash persisting for up to a week.

Unfortunately, not all chickenpox cases are routine.

In addition to the deaths, there are plenty of reports of kids having complications with chickenpox and developing skin superinfections, pneumonia, encephalitis, or having strokes.

What else does Bobby Kennedy say?

“Merck’s vaccine is only 60% effective after 5 years, leaving adults vulnerable to shingles.”

Bobby Kennedy

Actually, it has been found that one dose of the chickenpox vaccine is 100% effective at preventing severe disease!

So why do we get two doses?

“This study confirmed that varicella vaccine is effective at preventing chicken pox, with no waning noted over a 14-year period. One dose provided excellent protection against moderate to severe disease, and most cases occurred shortly after the cohort was vaccinated. The study data also suggest that varicella vaccination may reduce the risks of HZ in vaccinated children.”

Baxter et al on Long-term effectiveness of varicella vaccine: a 14-Year, prospective cohort study.

Two doses of the chickenpox vaccine are up to 94% effective at preventing any chickenpox disease, even breakthrough cases.

And again, several studies have confirmed that getting vaccinated and protected with the chickenpox vaccine decreases your risk of developing shingles!

Do you really want your kids to be at risk to get chickenpox and have a higher risk to get shingles later in life?

Of course not. That’s why you hopefully don’t listen to folks like Bobby Kennedy and you vaccinate and protect your kids.

More on Chickenpox Deaths

Can Schools Remove Unvaccinated Kids?

Why do parents think that their intentionally unvaccinated kids can not or will not be removed from school?

This school in Michigan was right to send unvaccinated kids home during a chickenpox outbreak.
This school in Michigan was right to send unvaccinated kids home during a chickenpox outbreak.

After all, when available, part of their choice when signing their child’s immunization waiver is to accept that their child could be excluded from school “as a disease control measure.”

Keeping unvaccinated kids out of school during an outbreak is the only way to keep more kids from getting sick. It is not a form of discrimination or segregation.

Well, I guess accept is a strong word…

Can Schools Remove Unvaccinated Kids?

Why is this coming up again?

“Last week, Marysville High School forcibly removed over 37 students from the high school due to an alleged outbreak of chicken pox, which consisted of two students.”

Parent: School wrong to remove unvaccinated students

Why send unvaccinated kids home when someone at the school has chickenpox?

Once upon a time, with no treatment or vaccine, families would just be quarantined when they had chicken pox.
Once upon a time, with no treatment or vaccine, families would just be quarantined when they had chicken pox. Photo by Howard Liberman.

Because chickenpox is very contagious!

For every case of chickenpox, up to 12 others who are not immune will catch it, which used to lead to large outbreaks in the pre-vaccine era.

“Homecoming events are happening all week long. The school has barred any Marysville student who cannot provide immunity status from attending these week long events including the homecoming parade and the homecoming dance. This group of banned students consists of band members, cheerleaders, and football players. HOWEVER, the school is allowing students from other school districts to attend without checking immunity or vaccination status of the visiting student.”

Parent: School wrong to remove unvaccinated students

To be clear, any of the kids with non-medical exemptions could have gone back to school if they had just gotten a chickenpox vaccine. It was their parent’s choice to avoid vaccinating and protecting them and that is what is keeping them out of school.

Why allow students from other school districts to visit the school?

Those students, even if they are unvaccinated, would not have already been exposed to the Marysville kids with chickenpox! They aren’t a risk to keep the outbreak going.

That is unlike the unvaccinated kids at Marysville High School. They could have already been exposed and could come down with chickenpox anytime over the 10 to 21 days following that exposure. If they stayed in school, they could then expose others, especially as you can be contagious even before you know that you have chickenpox.

“The Marysville School District released the private health, educational, and personal records of these students to the health department without parental consent. This is a clear violation of federal law.”

Parent: School wrong to remove unvaccinated students

And while the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does protect student privacy, there are exceptions for health or safety emergencies, including “the outbreak of an epidemic disease.”

As St. Claire County has a high rate of vaccine exemptions, it is not surprising that they are being so pro-active in trying to prevent the outbreak from growing.

“According to Michigan state law, there are three ways to provide immunity to a school. One, is a vaccination record. Two, is a titers blood test that shows immunity. Three, is an affidavit signed by a parent, guardian, or doctor that states the child has had the chicken pox. Despite the fact that at least one parent submitted an affidavit, the school has admitted they will not follow state law, but instead continue based on what the heath department recommends.”

Parent: School wrong to remove unvaccinated students

What about the idea that the school should have accepted the parents affidavit that their child is immune to chickenpox?

“(4) When a local health officer confirms or reasonably suspects that a student or individual attending school or a group program has a communicable disease, the health officer may, as a disease control measure, exclude from attendance any individuals lacking documentation of immunity or otherwise considered susceptible to the disease until such time as the health officer deems there to be no likely further risk of disease spread.”

MDHHS Communicable and Related Diseases Administrative Rules

Because chickenpox is now becoming more and more uncommon, many states are requiring titers to confirm immunity if a child is unvaccinated.

So what happens next?

When an intentionally unvaccinated Kentucky teen was banned from school during a chickenpox outbreak his family sued. They lost and he ended up getting chickenpox! Although he is now at increased risk to get shingles, he didn’t expose anyone else at his school.

We will see what happens in Michigan…

Parents of children affected by the quarantine and removed from school did choose. Their choice was to leave their kids unvaccinated and unprotected.
Parents of children affected by the quarantine and removed from school did choose. Their choice was to leave their kids unvaccinated and unprotected. Hopefully no one at their protest gets exposed to chickenpox.

Unless there is a new case, there is less than a week left to go and of the original 37 students, only 14 students are still being quarantined.

More on Removing Unvaccinated Kids from School