Shingles and the Chickenpox Vaccine

Woman Getting a Vaccination
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Among other anti-vaccine myths and conspiracy theories, one that is popular is that the chickenpox vaccine is responsible for a surge in shingles cases.

Why?

Perhaps because there are fewer children with chickenpox to boost our immunity to the chickenpox virus, thereby increasing the risk for reactivation and the development of shingles. This is still one of the reasons that some countries don't have a routine chickenpox vaccine program for their kids.

It has shown to not be true though.

Shingles and Chickenpox

As a reminder, if you get a natural chickenpox infection, the chickenpox (varicella zoster) virus then remains in your body in an inactive or dormant state. At some point, it can then reactivate, becoming shingles. That is why a person who isn't immune can develop chickenpox if they are exposed to someone with shingles.

Of course, you can't catch shingles.

You can get shingles if you have been vaccinated with the chickenpox vaccine, even if you have never had a natural chickenpox infection though. That's because the chickenpox vaccine is a live virus vaccine.

Your risk of getting shingles following the vaccine vs. having a natural infection is thought to be lower, however, another benefit of getting vaccinated.

In addition to protecting kids against chickenpox, it appears that the chickenpox vaccine actually lowers their risk of later developing shingles.

What Is Causing the Shingles Epidemic?

While there has been a rise in cases of shingles, despite what you will read on most anti-vax websites, it is not because of the chickenpox vaccine (Varivax).

In fact, it has been shown that:

  • The trend in rising shingles cases in adults began before we even started giving kids the chickenpox vaccine in the United States
  • The trend in rising shingles cases in adults did not continue to increase after we started giving kids the chickenpox vaccine in the United States
  • The trend in rising shingles cases in adults also exists in other countries that do not routinely give kids the chickenpox vaccine

Whatever the reason for the trend in rising shingles cases in adults, it isn't because more kids are protected from chickenpox now.

What to Know About Shingles and the Chickenpox Vaccine

The chickenpox vaccine is not causing a surge or epidemic of shingles. In fact, in addition to reducing your children's risk of developing chickenpox, it can likely reduce their risk of developing shingles later in life.

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Article Sources

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