Why exactly did we not get vaccinated against chickenpox back in the day?
The reason is simple, there was simply no vaccine available against the varicella zoster virus causing the diseases we commonly call chickenpox and shingles. It only became part of the national immunization program in 2004.
Some might think children don’t really need the vaccine because chickenpox is mild. They’ll just get it like we did. But chickenpox is not always mild, and even after recovery, the virus stays dormant in the body and can re-activate many years later in the form of shingles (a.k.a. herpes zoster) a very painful disease mainly affecting adults (1,2,3). Before the vaccine was available, many healthy children needed to be hospitalized every year following a chickenpox infection and some even died. Adults and immunocompromised kids and adults are also at risk for severe disease (1).
Now, children in Canada will receive their first chickenpox vaccine dose when they are 12 to 15 months old and a second when 18 months old (or later, just before they start school) (3). Adults and adolescents can also get vaccinated (3). After that, they will be 90% protected against any form of varicella, and 100% protected against severe disease (4)! That’s one hell of a gift!
Want to learn even more about vaccines for kids? Join our #KidsVaccinesDay Town Hall!