March 9, 2011
Due to a recent change in Kansas vaccination requirements, more school-age children will need additional chickenpox vaccinations before the start of the 2011-12 school year.
The Sedgwick County Health Department is extending its offer of free varicella (chickenpox) vaccine for children between the ages of 10 and 18. The free vaccine will now be available through the end of June at 2716 West Central.
A sliding fee scale is available for those under the age of 10 who qualify. The Health Department also accepts private insurance. Immunizations are offered on a walk-in basis. No appointment is needed.
“Chickenpox vaccine is still a fairly new concept, but we are already seeing the impact,” said Sedgwick County Health Department Director Claudia Blackburn. “The number of cases in our schools has dropped significantly since it became a requirement.”
The new standard calls for two doses for kids entering kindergarten, first, second and seventh grades. One dose will continue to be required for third through sixth and eighth through tenth grades – unless there is a documented history of the disease diagnosed by a physician (See chart below for comparison to former standards).
The Centers for Disease Control calculates that 15 to 20 percent of vaccinated children still get the chickenpox, though usually in a milder form. In one study, children who received a second dose were three times less likely to get the disease.
“Ideally, all parents will want to get that second dose for their children, regardless of their grade level,” said Blackburn. “It’s a good precaution to take.”
Children ages 12 and under must wait at least three months between doses. Kids 13 and up should space their doses by no fewer than four weeks.
Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads person-to-person by close contact with skin lesions or the cough/sneeze of an infected person.
In unvaccinated children, chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-10 days with symptoms such as high fever, an uncomfortable rash with 250 to 500 itchy blisters, and dehydration or headache.
About one in 10 unvaccinated children who get chickenpox will have a complication that is serious enough to require a visit to his or her healthcare provider. These complications include infected skin lesions and other infections, dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea, or more serious complications like pneumonia and encephalitis.
In vaccinated children, chickenpox illness is typically mild, producing no symptoms at all, other than a few red bumps. However, 25 to 30 percent of vaccinated children who get the disease will develop illness as serious as unvaccinated children.