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Kaiser Permanente: Chicken pox vaccine may also reduce risk of shingles among children


OAKLAND, Calif. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found something unusual when they looked at electronic health records of children vaccinated for chicken pox: Few of them had shingles.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an disease that causes painful blisters and results from the same virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster. After chicken pox symptoms subside, the virus goes dormant, but it may be reawakened years later, resulting in shingles.

The Kaiser Permanente researchers looked at data for more than 170,000 children vaccinated for chicken pox between 2002 and 2008 in the company’s Southern California region, following the children for around two and a half years to identify how often herpes zoster occurred. They found 122 cases, an incidence of 1-in-3,700 vaccinated children per year and, according to the study, a lower rate than one would expect among unvaccinated children, based on previous experiences.

“The message to parents and pediatricians is, vaccinating your child against the chicken pox is also a good way to reduce their chances of getting herpes zoster,” lead study author and Kaiser Permanente research scientist HungFu Tseng stated. “More research is needed to identify the virus strains that cause herpes zoster.”

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