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Parent Organization Questions Health Commissioner's Office On Chicken Pox Vaccine Recommendation To Prevent Strep A

Dawn Richardson, one of the founding parents of the group PROVE (Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education) is challenging the Health Commissioner's office to substantiate their recommendation to have children vaccinated with the varicella zoster (chicken pox) vaccine as a preventative measure for Strep A. Also, because the vaccine is not recommended for children with egg allergies or those in close contact with newborns or pregnant women, these restrictions need to be publicized.

Richardson states, "My concern is that since this vaccine is a live virus vaccine, more children may develop and spread chicken pox as a result of it. During this heightened concern over Strep A, mass vaccination with may actually put more children at risk for the Strep A infection. "

Lynn Denton, from the Health Commissioner's office, told Richardson 3-5 children out of 100 contract Chicken Pox from the vaccine. The incubation period for Chicken Pox is two to three weeks. When Richardson asked Denton how many children out of 100 who are not vaccinated will contract chicken pox naturally during that same two to three week period, Denton admitted that she did not know.

Richardson continues, "Unless the Health Department can show more children get chicken pox naturally in a two to three week period than those who are exposed to it through vaccination, their recommendation can not be justified. We are asking for evidence that the vaccine is not going to put more children at risk for Strep A infections. So far, the only answer we have been given was from the strep A hotline. The TDH representative said that the chicken pox vaccine is too new and they don't have the data to support their recommendation."

PROVE also wants it publicized that some children should not get the vaccine. "The Consumer's Guide to Childhood Vaccines", distributed by National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), pg 45 quotes varicella vaccine product inserts, "Individuals vaccinated with [the vaccine] may potentially be capable of transmitting the vaccine virus to close contacts. Therefore, vaccine recipients should avoid close association with susceptible high risk individuals (e.g., newborns, pregnant women, immunocompromised persons);" Additionally, the inserts state children with egg allergies should not receive this vaccine because of risk for an allergic reaction.

While Denton maintained that all doctors screen each child for possible contraindications and inform parents of the vaccine's side effects, PROVE is requesting the Health Department publicize this information so families can ask their health care provider questions.

There is also concern among some doctors that mass vaccination will drive chicken pox out of the childhood population, where it is usually mild, into the infant and adult populations where it can be more dangerous. The vaccine manufacturer states "the duration of protection is unknown at present, and the need for booster doses is not clearly defined." As the "Consumer Guide" points out, "The death rate for chicken pox is 1.4 per 100,000 cases in healthy children, but rises to nearly 31 per 100,000 cases in adults. The vaccine's questionable rate of efficacy may contribute to cases occurring in these more vulnerable age groups in the future."

Additionally, the CDC, manufacturer Merck, and TDH are using the children of Central Texas to collect experimental data on the chicken pox vaccine. The Parents of PROVE are concerned that this study could have potentially influenced the way health officials are making vaccine recommendations.

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April 5, 2008

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