The chickenpox vaccine has nearly eliminated all chickenpox related deaths in the U.S., reducing deaths from chickenpox by 88 percent.
The varicella vaccine has reduced deaths from chickenpox from an average of 105 prior to its introduction in 1995 to a mere 14 average deaths, the lowest ever reported, between 2002 and 2007. This study by the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases and the Center for Disease Control shows a 97 percent decrease in people under the age of 20 and 88 percent in the population as a whole.
The significant decrease in deaths is largely a factor of the preliminary shot, typically given to a child at age one or two.
"The impressive decline in varicella deaths can be directly attributed to successful implementation of the one-dose vaccination program," said one of the researchers of the study, Dr. Mona Marin, MD.
However, since a second vaccination given to children aged four to six was recommended in 2006, two shots of the vaccine has the potential to eliminate chickenpox related deaths altogether. According to researchers of the study, the growing popularity of the two-dose varicella vaccination could wipe out the small amount of deaths that occur from chickenpox.
"With the current two-dose program, there is potential that these most severe outcomes of a vaccine-preventable disease could be eliminated," Dr. Marin said.
Historically, the vaccination has worked to reduce deaths related to the four million cases of chickenpox reported annually before the varicella vaccination was introduced. Since then, doctors have given out 65 million vaccinations in 16 years, as reported by USA Today.
The study published in the August issue of Pediatrics demonstrates the importance of the chickenpox vaccine. While chickenpox was once a "rite of passage" for children and young people, it is now known the disease can lead to much more life-threatening complications like pneumonia or flesh-eating infections, or worsen down the road into shingles.