The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is a common requirement in most daycares and schools, with few exceptions or grounds for exemption. Despite this, there are still a lot of adults who have never been vaccinated. If you have never gotten the varicella vaccine, here are a few points to keep in mind regarding the pros and cons of the varicella vaccine for adults. While chickenpox is normally considered a childhood disease, it can strike adults who are not immune with potentially serious consequences. Some types of jobs will also require that you have a full set of vaccinations before you can begin work, specifically those in healthcare or childcare.
When adults need vaccinations
If you’ve never had a chickenpox vaccination before and never contracted the disease, then you may need to be vaccinated in order to avoid potential infection. Varicella is potentially deadly, and adults who contract the disease are especially likely to experience a bad case should they contract the disease. Clinical testing can determine whether or not you already have varicella immunity.
Contact with children and the immune suppressed
If you live or work with children or with anyone whose immune system is suppressed for any reason, then it is generally advisable to make sure all of your vaccinations are up-to-date, including varicella. Children contract the disease easily, and may suffer serious consequences. Anyone who is immune suppressed loses some or all of their acquired immunities, so even if they themselves have had immunizations and/or the chickenpox, they may still be in danger of contracting the disease. Because their bodies have impaired immune response, they can’t fight off the infection, and therefore run the risk of very serious effects.
Potential vaccination side effects
For most people, the potential side effects from getting the varicella vaccine are very mild. These include redness, swelling and some tenderness at the injection site. You may experience a low fever, and on rare occasions you may get a rash like a mild form of the disease.
Mild to moderate seizures are possible, though it’s not clear whether these are directly related to the varicella vaccine or if it’s an incidental response to some other factor. It appears that these may more often be related to fever, or some other condition near the time of vaccination.
Serious side effects are extremely rare, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering the pros and cons of the varicella vaccine for adults. Systemic allergic reactions are possible and can be life-threatening. A low blood count and what are classified as severe brain reactions may also be an extremely rare side effect of the vaccine, though the reported incidences have been so few as to make it unclear whether they’re related to the vaccination or not. Taking aspirin within the first few weeks after vaccination is associated with Reye’s syndrome, which is also potentially fatal.
Adults who should not get the varicella vaccine
There are a number of pre-existing factors that preclude an adult getting the varicella vaccine. For these individuals, there is a high likelihood of problems with this vaccine, and potentially others as well. Women who are or might be pregnant should not get the vaccine until after giving birth. Anyone with an immune disorder or who has recently gotten a blood transfusion should consult their doctor before scheduling an immunization. Cancer treatments may also cause issues with vaccination.
If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccination, it is not advisable to get another shot. Subsequent allergic reactions may be much worse than the first. Finally, if you are ill on or near your immunization appointment, you should wait until you feel better before putting an additional burden on your immune system.