March 15, 2001
Children entering kindergarten can add chicken pox to the list of diseases
they need to get immunized against.
Effective July 1, the State of California will require all children entering
kindergarten to be immunized with the new chicken pox vaccine called Varicella.
The new requirement counters the common belief that the best way to build
up immunization is by letting it run its course.
"Now we feel like having children immunized for chicken pox causes
less damage in the long run," said Bonnie Folkes, lead nurse for
Turlock Joint Elementary School District.
In fact, a child died nearly every week in the U.S. from chicken pox
complications and thousands were hospitalized, said a report issued by
the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. Varicella vaccine has been
available since March 1995.
"Why put kids in jeopardy when they have the vaccine?" said
Folkes rhetorically. The new requirement will prevent children the pain
and suffering caused by chicken pox and reduce absenteeism.
California school immunization requirements for most kindergartners are
a total of five DtaP (diptheria, tetanus, pertussis) shots, four polio
shots, three hepatitis B shots, 2 MMR shots and, now, one varicella shot.
Chicken pox is spread through the air as well as thorough contact with
chicken pox blisters. In the pre-vaccine era chicken pox spread rapidly
between children in the same school classroom, according to the SCHSA
The new requirement is for one dose of varicella vaccine for children
18 months and older. If the child is age 13 years or older and unimmunized,
two doses are required.
Children up to 18 years old transferring into California schools are
required to show varicella immunization or immunity document.
Symptoms of chicken pox include itchy rash forming from blisters that
dry and become scabs in four to five days and mild headache. A moderate
fever and discomfort may occur for 11 to 15 days. An infected person may
have anywhere from only a few lesions to more than 500 on their body.
Vaccinations may be done through family health-care provider or at the
- Excell Center at 2513 Youngstown Road on the first Wednesday of each
month from 9 to 11 a.m.
- Salvation Army at 490 Starr Ave on every first and third Thursday
from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
- Turlock WIC at 1125 N. Golden State Blvd., A&B on every Tuesday
from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
- Wakefield School at 400 South Ave on every fourth Wednesday from 9
to 11:30 a.m.
At these locations no appointment is necessary and no one will be denied
immunizations because of the inability to pay.
Facts about chicken pox
Information by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On the
Web at: www.cdc.gov.
- More than 95 percent of Americans get chickenpox by adulthood.
- The greatest number of cases of chickenpox occur in the late winter
- Adults are more likely to have a more serious case of chickenpox with
a higher rate of complications and death.
- Every year approximately 5,000 to 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths
result from chickenpox in the US.
- In the US, the annual cost of caring for children of normal health
who contracted chickenpox was estimated as $98 million in 1993.
Scott Smith is a reporter at the Turlock Journal. His e-mail address
Reprinted by permission of The Turlock Journal.