Stanislaus County Health Services Agency
  Chicken Pox Vaccination Required For Kindergartners
  By Scott Smith

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 report.

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 following locations:

  • 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

  • More than 95 percent of Americans get chickenpox by adulthood.
  • The greatest number of cases of chickenpox occur in the late winter and spring.
  • 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.
Information by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On the Web at:

Scott Smith is a reporter at the Turlock Journal. His e-mail address is

Reprinted by permission of The Turlock Journal.

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