MONDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- The varicella vaccine has nearly wiped out deaths from chickenpox in the United States, a new study shows.
The vaccine, introduced in a one-dose form in 1995, has reduced deaths from chickenpox by 88 percent in all age groups and by 97 percent in young people 20 and under, according to the study from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
"This is one of our success stories," said Dr. Charles Shubin, medical director of the Children's Health Center of Mercy FamilyCare in Baltimore, who is familiar with the study.
In 2006, a second dose was added to the vaccination roster, but the decrease in deaths occurred largely during the time when just one shot was recommended, the researchers found. While chickenpox-related deaths are now relatively rare, the new two-dose regimen may eliminate them altogether, they said.
The double dose will further reduce sick days and medical care associated with chickenpox and its complications, the study authors said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that children receive two doses of the varicella vaccine. But in recent years, there has been some pushback from parents about childhood immunizations -- largely because of unfounded fears about a link between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. As a result, measles and some other diseases are making comebacks.
Experts said they hope the findings will reassure anxious parents and alert them to the life-saving benefits of varicella vaccination.
Dr. Bruce Hirsch, attending physician for infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said the study provides "powerful information."
Deaths began declining almost immediately after the varicella vaccine was introduced.
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