For someone who had chicken pox in the early twenties, do I still need Varicella vaccination?
Even if you had the chicken pox in your early twenties, the answer is still a yes (or at least a maybe) for someone your age (50s and above).
Although it's widely accepted that most people do contract chicken pox only once and you do get immunity against it after, the same virus that causes chicken pox can also cause herpes zoster.
‘Chicken pox’ is caused by a family of viruses called the human herpesvirus. Human herpesvirus 3 (HHV-3) a.k.a Varicella - Zoster - Virus (VZV). VZV remains dormant in your nerve, spinal cord or brain after you contract the virus and can be reactivated in times of stress or low immunity.
VZV, when reactivated, is clinically diagnosed as Herpes Zoster, which commonly known as Shingles, or ‘Snake’ as some older folks may call it. It basically a patch of painful or itchy rash that follows a nerve distribution.
It is still possible to be contagious (meaning people can catch chicken pox from you if they are naive to it). And it also comes with its own set of complications:
- Secondary bacterial infection
- Eye involvement leading to blindness
- Persistent pain despite rashes resolving
- In some rarer cases, motor skills involvement or even vital organ/disseminated infection leading to serious morbidity or even mortality.
So from a community infectious disease standpoint, and also a self protection standpoint, it definitely seems worthwhile to get yourself vaccinated against varicella in general.
The vaccines for VZV in terms of chicken pox and herpes zoster prevention are, however, different products.
DO talk to your trusted physician about your options or suitability if you are interested.
Dr Tyler Lim
MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (Singapore)
160 Robinson Rd
#04-11 SBF Centre