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When teaching about infection and immunity to my high school students, I almost always have a student who claims that she or he caught chickenpox despite having been vaccinated. Scientists now know that two does of the chickenpox vaccine are 98% effective at stopping the disease, while a single dose only confers 86% protections.
Anti-vaxxers, if they are reading this at all, are probably thinking, “So what? It’s a harmless disease, why risk even one dose of the dangerous vaccine?”
Answer: The chicken pox vaccine is very safe and 98% protection is quite high for a vaccine, making it one of the most effective vaccines out there. Allowing children to acquire immunity by catching chickenpox is certainly safer than measles or whooping cough, but there is still the risk of complications.More importantly, by getting the vaccine, you protect your child from catching the much more serious and painful disease shingles later in life. Allowing children to get passive immunity to chickenpox leaves them vulnerable to shingles.
However, the most likely risk to occur is that of being sick for several weeks and missing a lot of school. As a teacher, I think it’s important to remind parents how important good attendance is to their children’s academic success. In a study of Baltimore school children, for example, researchers found that high school drop-outs averaged 27.6 absences per year during elementary school, compared with 11.8 for those who graduated on time. In other words, poor attendance during a child’s early school years can have long-term implications, sometimes even affecting their ability to graduate high school.