May 3, 2022 | In 2006, Quebec established a public chickenpox vaccination program. What impact has this program had on children’s health over the past 16 years?
In a recently released report, the Quebec National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) concludes that vaccination has led to a significant drop in doctor visits and hospitalizations.
Before vaccination, chickenpox was a highly contagious disease. About 90% of children get it before age 12, according to INSPQ. Although the chickenpox vaccine has been available in Quebec since 1998, a first dose has been offered free of charge to 12-month-old Quebec babies since 2006.
“However, we have noticed itafter one dose, there were still some patients who had chickenpox and that this exposed vulnerable children ”, emphasizes DD. Caroline Quach, epidemiologist at CHU Sainte-Justine.
A second dose was therefore recommended in 2016. First administered at the age of 4-6, it is now offered at the age of 18 months as it reduces the risk for young children of contracting the disease between the ages of 1 and 4, we can read in the INSPQ report.
” Once vaccinated with two doses, cases of chickenpox are extremely rare and when that happens, they’re barely 10 to 30 pimples, the King observesD. Quach. The cases we still see involve children too young to be vaccinated. ”
Preventing serious complications
Prior to vaccination, chickenpox was responsible for 400-500 hospitalizations each year, notes the INSPQ in its report. In fact, although often not serious, Chickenpox can lead to complications such as skin infections caused by Strep Aalso known as carnivorous bacteria.
“With chickenpox, the lesions become an entry point for strep,” explains Dr.D. Quach. Before vaccination, we occasionally saw 2 or 3 cases per week that weren’t quite benign, i.e. with surgery and sometimes amputations. ”
According to the INSPQ, chickenpox can also cause pneumonia, nerve damage, hepatitis, and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or surrounding membranes (meningitis). ” For children who have weaker immune systems, chickenpox can be very serious, confirms the dD. Quach. To protect them, therefore, it is necessary to reduce the transmission of chickenpox in the community. ”
This was revealed by the INSPQ report Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccination program, medical visits for this reason have decreased by 92% among children 10 years of age and younger. “Strep A infections have also disappeared,” adds DD. Quach.
At the end, hospitalizations decreased by 85% from the beginning of the program, all ages together.
After a first episode of chickenpox, the virus can become latent and reactivate later, especially after a drop in immunity. This is what causes shingles, a more serious infection than chickenpox. In general, shingles mainly affects people over the age of 50.
“Shingles can still affect children,” notes Dr.D. Quach, but especially those who had chickenpox very young, that is, before the age of one year. According to the INSPQ analysis, the consultation rate for shingles in children under 10 declined after the introduction of the vaccination schedule as well as the hospitalization rate.
However, the consultation rate for shingles continued to increase among people aged 50 and over. According to the dD. Quach, chickenpox vaccination could see a long-term effect. “If the vaccine causes an immune response and people don’t get chickenpox, there should be less shingles in adults when children vaccinated in the 2000s are between the ages of 50 and 70. ”
A live vaccine?
The chickenpox vaccine contains the live, weakened virus, meaning it has been cured in the laboratory to prevent it from causing disease. “Unless the child has an abnormal immune system, the chickenpox vaccine does not give the disease,” he points out the DD. Quach. Sometimes some people may have 2 or 3 pimples at the injection site, but nothing more. “
Source: Quebec National Institute of Public Health
Kathleen Couillard – Born and raised
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