Monday, February 26, 2007

Why you should Vaccinate against Chickenpox

This is one of the commonest comments from Parents:

I think it is better for my child to get Chickenpox. We all went through it and it is more natural that way!

Sound familiar?

But I have never heard a parent say something like,

I think it is better for my child to get Meningitis or

I think it is better for my child to get Polio.

I think the main reason is that most unlike Meningitis or Polio where there might be long term serious disabilities, most parents assume that Chickenpox has no long term effects on the child.

But is this assumption true and what are the facts?

The fact is that in most cases Chickenpox is a mild disease and most children recover without long lasting effects, BUT in some cases Chickenpox can cause long term disabilities and even death.

Why you should consider vaccinating your child:

A few points for you to think about:

1. There is a small chance that your child might develop serious complications like long term brain damage from chickenpox encephalitis (brain infection) or might even die from widespread chickenpox infection. An article published in the Singapore Medical Journal gives 8 cases of chickenpox complications. (Click Here) One child died, another was left with poor memory and behavioural changes. The rest although fully recovered, went through the illness with neurological problems such that they lost their sense of balance and there are also some who suffered from kidney problems during the length of the illness.

2. Consider the child pictured above who is one of my patients. He unfortunately had chicken pox as a baby and was left with a line of chicken pox marks on his face. You might think this is only a small thing, but he certainly was very sensitive about having his picture taken, which is why he tried to cover his face with his hand. The scars are having an impact on his sense of self esteem.

3. If the child has chickenpox, it would be a week long illness where the child will be uncomfortable and also infectious. Inevitably the people whom the child have contacted prior to the illness will start to panic and wonder if their own kids have contracted chickenpox. I even had one pregnant lady who was so worried that she would get chickenpox. If you vaccinate your child against chickenpox, then you really don't have to worry about these things.

4. In adulthood, chickenpox can be very severe with the lesions covering the entire body and face. If your child does not contract chickenpox as a child, he may still get it during adulthood.

Here is another common misconception:

Even if I vaccinate my child, he will still get Chickenpox!

If this were really the case, why would we even give Chickenpox vaccinations?

The fact is:

Children who have been vaccinated have a 75%-85% chance of protection against Chickenpox and the ones who still get it have a milder disease.

One of my patients asked me:

If I get vaccinated against Chickenpox, I will get Shingles later in life!

Quite the opposite is true! And this is another reason why you should consider vaccinating against Chickenpox.

Shingles, better known in Singapore as "Seh Zhua" (Snake) is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus when the immune system is weakened. When one suffers from an episode of chickenpox, some of the virus take up residence in the body and lie domant until something occurs to reactivate it.

When you vaccinate yourself or your child against chickenpox, you are essentially giving your body a deactivated virus which does not cause chickenpox, but is still recognized by the body as chickenpox. Thus the body's immune system arms itself against this particular virus and stores the information in memory. The next time when the body gets exposed to the real chickenpox virus, it mounts an effective response so that the chickenpox virus does not have any chance of replicating in the body and causing the chickenpox symptoms.

So if you never get chickenpox, you will not be harbouring the virus in your body and thus will not get Shingles later in life.

More information on Shingles may be found by clicking this


Chickenpox is a disease that can be avoided. There is no compelling reason NOT to vaccinate yourself or your children. So please consider the facts and make an informed decision on your family's health!


hmph said...

What's the typical cost of a chicken pox vaccine and is re-vaccination required? I am a 28-yr old, how will the vaccination affect me?

ieat & itreat said...

The cost varies but lies somewhere in the range of $80 to $100. You will need 2 jabs at your age. The commonest side effects are fever and local inflammation at the injection site.

HaPPi MuMMi said...

WOW.. only discuss it recently with you, so fast got write up liao... :) okie... Will have Gwendal vaccinate

Jason said...


My daughter is only 4.5 months old, when is she ready for this vaccine?

NoChickenpox said...

Does a chickenpox jab last for life? or is a booster jab required later? My son had the jab when he was about 2 or 3 years old. He is now 10. Does he need a booster?

ieat & itreat said...

Jason: Your daughter can have the vaccine when she is one year old

nochickenpox: A booster jab is not required.

nochickenpox said...

Oh, thank you for your fast response.

Keesha said...

Can you please tell us more about eating disorders? Is there any suggestions as to how to solve bulimia?

shiyan said...


Thanks a lot for the information. I have been thinking of getting a vaccination for myself for quite some time but I have been putting it off because I couldn't really see the reason to get one.

Just wondering... To get the jab, I can just go to any GPs right? I'm in my 20s and I understand I will require 2 jabs. Will they be taken at the same time? If not, what is the gap between the 2 jabs?

ieat & itreat said...

The jabs are taken 6 to 10 weeks apart

Patrick said...

On the advice of my family doctor i din want my kids to be immunised yet; but when they turn 10 then I'll vaccinate them as i'm concerned about the effects & inconveniences. Reading your article makes me think otherwise.


sharyn said...

I'm 21 this year and I wanted to take the vaccine, however I was told I might be immuned to it since I was exposed to the virus for 3 times which involves close contact with my friends.

I took the immunity test and the results showed that I'm highly immuned to it.

Do I still need to take the vaccine later on in life? Will my level of immunity drop?

rynmelody said...

Hmm, there's no more reply for this post?!

Anyway the one above is still me.


ieat & itreat said...

Hi, sorry I missed your last comment. If you have never had chickenpox before, then you should take it. The vaccine is lifelong.

Beau Lotus said...

I am lucky that over here in Europe, the chicken pox jabs are covered by Social Security so my 2 younger children had been vaccinated against the virus. My eldest is not as lucky as I was not informed about them before and so he had the virus and the scars that went with it. He even passed the virus to me during the 8th month of my pregnancy! It was quite a bad experience.

When I told my family in S'pore about the jabs, they gave me the same shingle etc beliefs. More doctors should make known what you've published in your blog.

dreamy galz said...

Is it possible for someone who already had it to have the vacine?

ieat & itreat said...

If you have already had chickenpox then you are supposed to be immune for life. There is no need to vaccinate in this case.

san said...

Chanced on your site just today & I hope this comment will not be missed.
Are there tests to check if we have gotten chickenpox before?

ieat & itreat said...

Yes but we don't routinely do it. It is easier and there is no risk if you just vaccinate if in doubt

Anonymous said...

i remembered i had vaccinate before, is it alright to do the vaccination again? or do you think i should do a test on the immunity level and if yes, how much does it cost to do such test?

jessica said...

hello, I am 19 year old and my boyfriend was recently diagnosed with chicken pox. I have never had chicken pox before so I am more likely to get from him.I am trying to take precautions and staying away from him. But as per my information the most infectious stage is 2-5 days before the first spot starts appearing.At that time we were unaware that he had chicken pox.So, is there any possibility that I have already got the virus in me?? will the vaccine help me still??

ieat said...

Yes, vaccination within 72 hours of exposure can still prevent chickenpox in significant number of cases.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr,
I am Dr myself and I was doing a google search on the use of chickenpox vaccination in patients who had already contracted the disease.
There is a prevelant misconception that if you get chickenpox once, you are immune for life. Recently one of our co doctors got a second episode of chickenpox almost 10 years after his first episode. Clearly the assumption is false that we would be immune for life!!!
In these cases will vaccination help, especially if you see chickenpox cases regularly in your clinical practice?
Please copy your reply to my email as well

ieat said...

Hi Dr Suryas,

My personal view is that indeed it does happen but maybe not as often as we are led to believe.

A lot of my patients claim that they had chickenpox twice but when you ask them about the first instance, the diagnosis is in doubt. So I think a lot of these patients might not actually have chicken pox when they were kids and only had it in adulthood.

As to whether to vaccinate oneself, I would say there really is no harm and it is up to individual doctors to make that decision. As far as I know there is no official stance on this. Perhaps it would be good to hear from an infectious diseases specialist on this.

Li Zhi said...

Hmm... what if I had chicken pox when I was three months old? According to my mum, it was a mild case. Am I at risk of getting it again? I am now 19.

ieat said...

In doubt, you can always do a blood test to see if you have the antibodies to the chickenpox virus. Either that or if you want to be Kia Su, just take the vaccination.

laily said...

my daughter is turning 15mths next mth, i;m wondering if i could give her chicken pox vacc within this week as we are going to Bandung, Indonesia for holiday.
i called up your clinic to make enquires but your nurse said that chickenpox vacc can only be taken at 18mths. could you please help me on which is correct...

ieat said...

I think there is a miscommunication somewhere.

Chickenpox can be given from 1 year of age.

You can certainly bring your child in before you go off to Indonesia

ieat said...

I think there is a miscommunication somewhere.

Chickenpox can be given from 1 year of age.

You can certainly bring your child in before you go off to Indonesia

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Tay, i would like to know what is the correct way of disposing the dirty guazes used on patient with herpes zoster at home.

ieat said...

If you want kill the virus straightaway, then put the gauzes in a jar and soak in bleach.

Ordinarily, you can just put them in a strong plastic bag, make sure it is tightened properly and dispose of it in the rubbish.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much Dr Tay!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Tay,

I would like to ask you an question regarding the management of weeping wound for Herpes Zoster patients. What kind of cleaning solutions and what kind of dressings do we use? I thank you in advance, Dr Tay.


ieat said...

You can use an antiseptic solution like Chlorhexidine and a dressing that doesn't stick to the wound like melonin

Anonymous said...

won't chlorhexidine inhibit healing? and wouldn't it be especially painful for the patient? i read from a website that says PP can do the trick too, is it true? thanks dr.

ieat said...

PP is ok too. You can also use Eusol. Basically just an antiseptic solution to clean the wound.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Tay,

According to you and also HPB, children between 12 months and 13 years need only 1 jab (no booster jab needed).

Other countries like US and UK does recommend that two doses of varicella vaccine for children. The first dose is recommended at 12–15 months of age. It is usually given at the same time as MMR vaccine. The second dose is recommended at 4-6 years, before entering kindergarten or first grade.

You can check the US CDC website for this.

Can you please help to clarify which of the above holds true?


ieat said...

That is a good question.

The US CDC has begin to advise a booster dose for chickenpox. However our MOH here has not given the go ahead for Singapore yet. It is just a matter of time. But in the meantime, informed parents can opt for a booster for their kids.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr

Can i check with you that i given my son the chicken pox vaccine within 24hrs when there one baby infected with chicken pox in my care taker home. Will it help my son from getting chicken pox from the baby? But still i need to leave my son during the daytime there as i need to work. But they have try best to separte them up. I also clean him up immed during evening when i fetch him back. My qns is will my son still get the chicken from him even he had the injection? what should avoid?

ieat said...

Yes, within the first 72 hours of exposure, you can get some protection for your child.

Now the best thing is just wait and see. If he does not develop chickenpox over the next 2 to 3 weeks he should be ok.

janteo11 said...

Hi Dr Tay,

My daughter had her chickenpox jab last year when she was 15mths. Now that she is 34mths, her PD recommends that she take the 2nd booster chickenpox jab. Is it too young for her to take the 2nd jab dose? She is 90% recovering from HFMD which she got it from childcare centre.


ieat said...

A second jab will confer better protection against chickenpox. In the US, it is recommended that the second jab be taken at school going age. But as long as there is a three month gap between jabs it is ok.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Tay,

I understand that there are two brands of varicella zoster vaccine(Okavax and Varilrix). Okavax requires only one dose for adult. Which one is better?


ieat said...

According to the studies the Varilix vaccine confers a higher level of immunity. As to why Okavax requires only one dose, I am not sure. But the ACIP now recommends two doses for kids.

Siti said...


My sons are exposed to their cousin who recently has been diagnosed as having chicken pox. They last played together on Tuesday, understand that it would be best to get vaccinated within 72hrs but if its beyond does it really help? As we intend to bring them to your clinic on Sat. My kids are 14 mths, 2 yrs and 5 yrs.

Suraini Binte Saptu said...

Hi Dr Tay, my daughter just got e chix pox jab at your clinic last Fri. Coincidentally, we found out 2 students in her school are down with chicken pox. Is she protected from this virus, knowing that she might have been playing with those infected children? Also, during that visit on Friday to your clinic, I showed you 2 'spots' at her wrist, which you dismissed as normal rash. since the jab, my daughter has developed runny nose & her stool is very watery, till today. Can you please advise me regarding this matter, I'm just a worried parent who can't bear to see her daughter suffer from 'The Pox'. Thank you

Opinionated Pig said...

hey dr tay, i am a chicken myself and would like EMLA cream to be applied prior to jab, is it possible. Will you allow patient to do that? I hv been avoiding vaccines for 20 years.

ieat said...

You come to the clinic and I will give you EMLA before the jab.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Tay,

I chanced upon your site as I was searching for contracting chicken pox with vaccination.

My daughter had itchy spots on abdomen and genitals for the past 1.5 weeks and we thought it was the normal reaction due to change to regular detergent or poor sanitation habits.

We continued to send her to daycare. The itch still persisted and we brought her to PD. The PD would not confirm if it was chicken pox or not. When we asked if she needed MC or memo to state she was fit to go back to daycare, he would not commit.

In this case, with vaccination my girl had unknowingly become a carrier with no other symptoms. The vaccination is certainly beneficial for her - mild disease; but not so for unvaccinated ones who came into close contact with her. For this reason, to those who still are contemplating whether to go for vaccination or not, I say go for it!

rattilicious said...

Hi Dr Tay,

My sister realised that she got chicken pox today. I'm 26 and never had chicken pox before. I understand that adults like myself need 2 jabs for the vaccination. If i get myself vaccinated with 1 jab today, will i still be protected since the 2nd jab is not done yet?

ieat said...

You will have some protection if you vaccinate yourself within 72 hours of exposure

Janice said...

Hi Dr Tay,

I'm thinking of going for the vaccine together with my 15-month-old but I'm also trying for a second baby now.

Is it safe to take the jab in pregnancy?


ieat said...

You should not take the jab if you are confirmed to be pregnant.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Tay,

I've taken the chicken pox jab in 2005 when my 2 elder kids got chicken pox. Now, my 2yrs old boy got chicken pox. Should i take the jab again? Does my 2 elder kids need to take the jab since they have had chicken pox in 2005.

Do i need to get a booster jab for myself and my kids?

Jacelyn said...

Hi Dr Tay,

I have my 2 year old daughter in childcare who might be exposed to chicken pox anytime. I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and had chicken pox before. Can I know
a) Is there risks to myself and my unborn child if my daughter gets chicken pox before I deliver?
b) After I deliver, what are the risks to my newborn (before 1 year old) if he happens to get chicken pox from his elder sibling?


ieat said...

If your daughter gets chickenpox before birth, it should be ok since you have chicken pox before. So you are unlikely to get it again.

If your daughter contracts chickenpox, it might take 3 weeks before the pox appears. If you do deliver at term, you are ok. But if you deliver early and the baby is exposed to your daugther when she has chickenpox, then baby has a chance of contracting chickenpox and the risk of side effects to baby in the first year of life is greater. Best is to get your daughter vaccinated.