This particular review looks at just how incredibly effective the chicken pox vaccine has been for our children. The rates since 1995, when the vaccine was first introduced, have dropped dramatically (88% overall). Sounds powerful enough to send you running to Walgreens to get your child vaccinated, huh? Before you start the car, you need to know this..
We’ve talked about the difference between absolute and relative risks and how much they can play with our perceptions. This is done with statins all the time. The numbers reported above are RELATIVE risk reductions. To put it in perspective, if we had a rare cancer of the left eyelash that 2 people got per year and we gave a drug to the entire population of the world and that number dropped to only a single person, this is, arguably, a 50% relative risk reduction. Sounds impressive until it hits you that we had to treat the entire population of the world to prevent a single case of this cancer.
So where does the truth lie in this review? In the prevaccination era, in children up to age 9, the number of deaths per year that listed varicella on the death certificate was 29, dropping down to 6 after vaccination was implemented.
We vaccinate an entire population, with an accepted level of adverse reactions to the vaccination, with an increase in shingles in adults (yes–this is considered a direct result of the chicken pox vaccine) to drop the number of deaths by 23. That’s not a town–that’s the entire US.
Certainly any parent who has lost a child to chicken pox would see things differently. But what about the mother of the child who has to take breathing treatments for their asthma? Or the senior dealing with the debilitating pain of post-herpetic neuralgia?
And this is all without taking the cost of vaccination of the entire country to prevent a mere handful of cases. Which has to play a role in our country’s massive load of health care costs.