Children's Health

Children to Receive Second Chickenpox Vaccine

Additional Dose to Increase Resistance to Childhood Illness

Most adults vividly remember their childhood experience with the chickenpox. From baking soda baths to a week off school, chickenpox usually leaves its mark. This won’t be the case for four-year-old Jared Sherd of Grand Rapids. He is one of the first children impacted by The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) new vaccination guidelines. The AAP is now recommending that children should receive a second dose of chickenpox vaccine at age four.

“Up to 10 percent of children do not respond to the first vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to acquiring chickenpox,” said William Stratbucker, MD, pediatrician, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Evidence suggests that if we give a second chickenpox vaccine we will “catch” some of the non-responders and reduce the percentage of vulnerable children.”

Why Vaccinate

  • The chickenpox virus can be spread from person to person through the air or by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters.
  • Chickenpox causes a rash, itching, fever and tiredness.
  • Approximately 12,000 people are hospitalized annually in the United States for chickenpox.
  • Chickenpox can lead to a painful rash called shingles.

“I knew about the first vaccine but wasn’t aware of the booster until coming to our pediatricians office,” said Karalee Ikwueme, mother of Jared Sherd. “I am one of five children and remember the chickenpox sweeping through our house growing up. It’s great my boys won’t have to go through what we did.”

When to Vaccinate

  • Children should get the first dose of chickenpox vaccine between 12 and 18 months of age.
  • Children should receive a second dose of chickenpox vaccine at four years of age. If a child is older than four and has not had the chickenpox, they should also receive the second dose.
  • Children can receive the second dose at their next visit to the pediatrician’s office. An appointment just for the second dose of vaccine isn’t necessary.

“Chickenpox is quite uncommon in 2007 but that is not a reason to stop vaccinating,” added Stratbucker. “The cases that do occur have the same risks as the cases that occurred prior to routine vaccination and for which we started this process. We experienced a similar phenomenon with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Pediatricians began routine administration with a second MMR in the 90’s to try to catch the non-responders.”

The chickenpox vaccines are covered by Medicaid and most insurance plans. Parents are encouraged to contact their insurance company for coverage details.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a member of Spectrum Health, is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. The team includes more than 100 specialists uniquely skilled in providing medical care to children, in over 40 outpatient clinical settings. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation.