Monday, February 16, 2009

My Chicken Pox PSA....

Oregon Sunshine posed an interesting question about the chicken pox immunization, and I thought that I would add my two cents. This is most definitely a PSA (Hi Mrs. Mom!!) and just know that it is my opinion about something...not the!!! Here is an excerpt from her comment:

"...And lastly, I've heard the last round of vaccine from the last couple years has NOT been protecting from chicken pox. It's going around at Dude's school side by side with something that doesn't quite look like chickenpox, but sorta acts like it, minus the blisters. This leaves me wondering if the vaccine is really just setting our kids up to get chickenpox as an adult- which can lead to all sorts of problems in itself."

As many of you know, I have been a nurse who worked in a doctors office for over 10 years, and I happened to be around when the varicella vaccine (the virus that causes chicken pox) first came out. It is a live vaccine, which means that it can give the child an active case of the disease, and it is given in a series of two shots.

Now...I was amazed when parents jumped all over this immunization in the first place, because it was brand new, and honestly, almost all of us adults had chicken pox and we survived it just fine. There are secondary complications to the disease, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, skin infections, and death, but these are rare, and are caused when bacteria sets in...not from the actual virus itself.

Suddenly there were commercials all over the television that told the public that chicken pox was a deadly disease that could be prevented, and consumers started calling and bringing their children in for the immunization. I remember asking a drug rep (whose company made the vaccine) why the vaccine had been developed, and he looked me right in the eyes and told me it was for convenience (and of course money!). He said that the average child, and thus parent, misses about one week of school (parent misses work), and that it was easier for everybody involved, if they didn't have to miss school and/or work. Okay...I'll buy that, but is it safe and effective??? Most definitely, I was assured.

We started noticing that kids who were given the immunization, were getting really sick, with high fevers, runny noses, and coughs, and that they would break out with anywhere from 2-40 pox's after the immunization. This was not entirely shocking, as the vaccine was live, but what we weren't prepared for was that the kids would do this more than once.

Let me emphasize that not all of the immunized children had this reaction , and not all of them got a mild case of chicken pox more than once, but it did/does happen...frequently. I decided that I would take my chances, and not immunize my children, and as you can see, they have both now had the virus.

Would I wish chicken pox on anybody??? No!! It is awful, and I wish that the vaccine was 100% effective, but for more than 1/2 of the immunized children, it is not. As Oregon Sunshine pointed out, kids are now getting multiple cases of chicken pox, or they are getting strange rashes that resemble chicken pox, but are not quite chicken pox. Scientists (the MD kind) think that this new type of almost chicken-pox-but-not-quite-chicken-pox is a type of mutated varicella virus, that may, and they emphasize the word "may," have been caused from the immunization.

Obviously immunizations can be effective, and prevent terrible epidemics, but I always push for parent/patient education. Don't do something just because the television and your doctor say it is okay. Do the research first and make an informed decision before you take medications, have surgery, or get certain immunizations.

PS-If you are teenager or an adult, and have never had an active case of chicken pox, ask your doctor to have a varicella titer drawn to see if you have developed antibodies to the disease. If you have, great!!! And if you haven't, consider getting the immunization, because the older you are when you get the disease, the worse you develop it, and the risk of developing secondary complications goes up significantly.

Okay...I will get off of my soapbox now!!! LOL!!!


Gail said...

Wonderful informative soapbox time. I, too, have had my doubts about vacines. I see many children get sick from the required shots. As a grandmother it scares me more!

My sister, Bev, was a Christian Scientist and was given permission not the do the required shots for her four children. Her youngest is in his late twenties and they have never had any major illnesses.

Mutation is a scary thing. We have overused antibiotics for so long...I don't even want to go there!

Anyway, I'll hush and just say good job!

Mrs Mom said...

Girl, get on that soap box! This is EXACTLY the type of info parents NEED to hear, so that they can make an informed decision about what to vaccinate their children for.

(Yep, I am sitting here cheering- GO PSA!!!)

Thank you for the info, and the inside edge.

allhorsestuff said...

I do not have children but if I did, I would do what My sissy did with her son, my Nephew. He had no
vacinations and she let him have fevers(within reason). He just turned 18 and is as healthy as a horse!
Great Info my dear!

oregonsunshine said...

Oh, if I had known you years and years ago! I got Kitty the vaccine because of my experiences with it at 16. Kitty didn't have any sort of reaction to the vaccine. In fact, we got one of the first rounds before the general public because we were a military family.

Three years later, after getting out, The Marine caught chickenpox at age 23 from my nephew. Kitty, escaped unharmed. It was pure hell for The Marine at that time. I had to take time off work to take care of him and Kitty because he wasn't capable and I couldn't in good conscious send her to daycare carrying a communicable disease with her. The end result is that chickenpox left The Marine sterile.

Flash forward to November of this year... We ended up with a Battle Royale late this fall with fleas. We'd re-barked our back yard and after not having a single flea issue since moving here in April, we brought fleas in with that bark!

We barked on a weekend. On Monday, before noon, Dude's principal called and said I needed to come get him because he had chickenpox. When I got there, it sure didn't look like chickenpox! He had a couple flea bites, but the principal insisted that he had to be home for a minimum of 72 hours before he could go back. That's when I heard about the chickpox vaccine NOT working and running rampant through the school. Later in the day, Dude's teacher called and discussed what they were experiencing in school. It didn't really look like chickenpox, and not all the spots blistered. I told her I'd watch him.

Well, Dude never developed the rash or a fever or anything. Instead, I did! (Oh the joys of fibromyalgia! My immune system is screwed!) I got the mild fever, the spots that didn't quite blister, the sore throat and all! Ick!

The varicella vaccine is mandatory here in Oregon for school age children. I've always had mixed feelings about vaccines for my kids and for my pets. But that's a whole blog on it's own!

Saddle Mountain Rider said...

Chicken pox was a serious disease 75 years ago. It is not still considered serious, is it?

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Excellent PSA!!!!

I think people try to do the best thing for their kids, but the over-use of anitibiotics and now it seems vaccines is only causing our bodies to generate more and more severe germs, bacterias and viruses.

My college biology professor(a retired doctor who taught doctors) told his classes that by the time most people went to the doctor to get prescriptions their bodies had already created the anitibodies it needed to fight off cold and flu viruses. But when people started the antibiotics they effectively killed of their natural antibodies and the body had to start over again, prolonging their illness and making it harder for their immune systems to work as effectively the next time they got sick. Of course a lot of people then quit taking the antibiotics as soon as they felt better and left themselves with incomplete protection against future attacks on their immune system. He tempered that by saying there are very valid reasons for taking antibiotics, but that a person needs to really think about what is going on in their bodies.

Do you have any opinions on that shot they have for girls to help protect them from ovarian cancer? I have contemplated it for my daughter, but since no one in my family has ever had anything along those lines, I hesitate to "vaccinate" her for something that is somewhat heriditary.

Melanie said...

Hey you guys!! I promise that I will answer all of your questions about just may take me a day or two. :)

Natarojo said...

I had chicken pox as a kid in conjunction with pneumonia and let me tell you it was NOT fun. But I would have much rather dealt with the pox than have gotten immunized and faced the possible side effects. I had friends that got immunized and they seemed alot worse off for it. When I have kids and it comes time to do such vaccines this is one I think I will seriously think about before persueing. Thanks for the thought provoking topic Melanie!

C-ingspots said...

I loved this post Melanie!! Generally, I think that we have a tendency to over-medicate and over protect our children and our pets from non-life threatening illnesses. We need to get sick occasionally so that our bodies can develop a healthy immune system. As a nation (I think) we over vaccinate as well. However, having said that, there are some vaccinations out there that we should definitely do which prevent some disastrous diseases which should be prevented. I don't think chicken pox is one of them. I didn't realize that you were a nurse. Thank you so much for the thought-provoking post and the information. It's always a good thing when people think and communicate and subsequently become more educated. Well done!!

Stephanie said...

Hmmm... great advise thanks!

As a child I had a very, very, light case - then never got it again. But when I questioned Mom about it - she said she wasn't even sure it was chicken pox.

I am having so many issues right now I am going to ask my doc about it, I am in there every other week anyway, my deductible is paid - why the heck not?

Great post Melanie and ORSunshine - thanks!

Jocelyn said...

I got Chicken Pox @ 29.Thank you two kids in kindergarten !
It was a freaking nightmare and I have al lthe horrid scars to prove it.
My gift? Shingles that get EVERY YEAR freaking awesome.

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

I had CP in Grade 1 or Mom actually felt it was best to get it younger and over with so we didnt try to hide from kids there were effected. I have heard all the controversy about all of these vaccines and the concerns with them and understand parents concerns but also worry what will happen if none of us are vaccinated (not against CP but other things)... And the anti-HPV people (that are anti because they feel it condones pre-martial sex) I strongly disagree with.

Anyways, I am going to borrow your topic and ask a question over on my side...

(PS- I've been meaning to e-mail you for a while now...sorry! Will do soon!)

Melanie said...

Jocelyn-Yep...that is why adults and teenagers should get immunized if they have not developed antibodies or had chicken pox. Shingles are terrible too!!

Melanie said...

PS-I think what is important to remember is that chicken pox is a CHILDHOOD disease, that is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and potentially able to cause serious secondary infections/complications.

It is terrible and scary when your child has it (trust me, I know!!), but with proper nutrition, access to quality healthcare, and medications such as calamine/caladryl lotions, Benadryl, oatmeal and/or baking soda baths,and acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, most children can recover from Chicken Pox with little more than a few unsightly scars. (Hi Chelsi!)

Adults and teenagers on the other hand, do not handle the disease well,and are prone to complications from high fevers, sores,skin infections, and scars, bronchitis, pneumonia and encephalitis to name a few.

Of course children can suffer from the above problems too, but they are less likely(under the above mentioned conditions). It is also important to remember that the chicken pox vaccine is new, and still rather experimental.

If any of you are familar with the polio vaccines, you know that there used to be two versions: the live one, and the "killed" one. The live vaccine was discontinued after it was discovered that most of the new cases were actually caused by the vaccine. (Kind of sounds like the chicken pox one, eh?)

Soooooo....maybe in another 10-15 years, the drug companies will be able to find a safe and effective chicken pox vaccine, and it can be erradicated like a lot of other childhood and non-childhood diseases.

My PSA was just to make people aware of the possible side effects and complications of the immunization. I am all about informing yourself, and not just doing something because the doctor (who is strongly influenced by the drug companies) says to do it. :)

This being said, you must do what makes YOU comfortable too. I just wanted to remind people that 10-12 years ago, before the vaccine came out, chicken pox was seen as a rite of passage through unfortunate and icky one, but one none the less.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Around here parents who discover that their kids have chicken pox, post a notice to invite other parents and their kids over for Pox Parties, so the kids can be exposed.
I think that's a little over the top, but whatever floats their boat.

I think that if I hadn't been affected so adversely by CP, I might not have worried about giving my kids the vax, but seeing my childhood friend suffer with me through chicken pox symptoms and then die, even though she appeared to be 'on the mend' affected me terribly.

And then my uncle, who had been exposed to CP and suffered from it as a kid, tons of terrible scars on his face, arms and back....and thought he was safe from CP for the rest of his life since he'd had it as a child.....but no.

He's been in agony with Shingles for years now, all because he was exposed to CP when he was a kid.

Personally, I just didn't feel it was worth the risk to have my kids suffer or die from CP, so I went with the vax, and I feel good about it.

But like I said in a previous comment, you educate yourself and make the decisions that are right for your own family.

I won't ever knock what another family chooses to do. 'vax' or not'. It's their choice and they have to live with their choices, just as I do my own.

Life has no guarantees either way.


ps...great post on such a controversial subject, Mellie :)