Two Boys Develop Rare Meningitis After Chickenpox Vaccine Reactivates

Two Boys Develop Rare Meningitis After Chickenpox Vaccine Reactivates

The vaccine is said to be "incredibly safe and effective".

According to a recent American study published in the journal, Pediatrics, two 14-year-old boys had developed meningitis from receiving a chickenpox vaccine.

One of the boys had a history of leukaemia, and temporary symptoms included numbness and slurred speech. The other boy, however, was reported to be healthy previously.

Both boys, however, were given the recommended dosage. 

Doctors have described it to be the first known case of meningitis from reactivation of the chickenpox vaccine: the varicella vaccine. 

Over 50 million doses have been distributed so far, according to study author Dr Whitney Harrington, a paediatric infectious disease physician at Seattle Children's Hospital. 

chickenpox vaccine

Meningitis linked to chickenpox vaccine

Based on previous cases in the report, children who developed meningitis was linked to the vaccine—Oka varicella—having received only one dose.

Still, this rare side effect has only been present in a handful of cases, said Harrington, and the varicella vaccine is said to be "an incredibly safe and effective vaccine".

Licensed for use in the United States, its use has reduced the number of chickenpox cases. 

It is however not recommended during pregnancy or for individuals with impaired or weakened immune systems, experts have warned, according to CNN. 

More common in unvaccinated children than in those vaccinated

The "weakened virus" used in the chickenpox vaccine could be reactivated, even leading to infections like Herpes Zoster or shingles, reported by CNN.

This occurs in individuals who had been previously infected with chickenpox but "in very rare cases", according to experts. 

In fact, infections like Herpes Zoster was found to be more common in unvaccinated children than those who were vaccinated, mentioned the authors. 

Even so, from past research, the authors had pointed out that among those vaccinated, reasons for infection was due to transmission from another infected person, rather than through the vaccine itself. 

For children, symptoms of chickenpox typically include fever and small, red, itchy blisters on the face and body. For older adults however, it might present itself in painful rashes, nerve pains and other symptoms.

Two Boys Develop Rare Meningitis After Chickenpox Vaccine Reactivates

Prevention of chickenpox 

myths and facts about vaccinations

Chickenpox in children is worrying, however, the condition is in fact much more dangerous in adults, with "25 times greater risk of dying from chickenpox" as compared to children aged between one and four years, according to a report by AsiaOne. 

A considerable percentage of adults who have had chickenpox (20%), will develop shingles at a later stage in their lives, usually above 50 years old, and increases with age.

While it is said that taking a chickenpox vaccine is not compulsory in Singapore, according to Healthhub, it is still recommended for children to be vaccinated between 12 to 18 months. 

Here are the guidelines according to The Ministry of Health's Expert Committee on Immunisation:

  • Children below 13 years of age—receive two doses with a recommended interval of at least three months; the first dose at 12 months of age and the second dose by 18 months of age (at least three months later).
  • Children aged 13 years and above—receive two doses, at six-week intervals.

Source: Pediatrics, CNN, HealthHub, AsiaOne

Also READ: "No, I Don't Need to 'Replace' My Kid's Father Just Because He Died"

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Written by

Jia Ling

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