Licensed in 1995, the varicella vaccine is currently included on the World Health Organization’s list of “Essential Medicines for Children.” Despite this recommendation, only some countries routinely use this vaccine for their children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine for children, adolescents and adults. Two doses of the vaccine protect about 98 of every 100 people from developing chickenpox. In addition, Japan, Australia, Canada, and a few European and Middle Eastern countries include it in their routine childhood vaccination programs.
In contrast, some developed nations, including the United Kingdom (UK), only recommend vaccination for people who are particularly vulnerable to the disease. In the UK that includes those in repeated contact with immune-compromised patients and healthcare workers. Unfortunately, many developing nations with limited funds for immunization programs cannot afford to routinely use the vaccine, and instead choose to prioritize the use of vaccines that prevent illnesses more devastating to their respective populations.
There is one varicella-related practice that all countries seem to frown upon — chickenpox parties. These are gatherings at which healthy children are exposed to a child currently contagious with chickenpox. The goal of parents who take their children to these events is to expose them to the disease instead of getting the vaccine. Unfortunately, the disease can, in some cases, be devastating and even deadly, so this is a dangerous practice. Officials from around the world discourage parents from engaging in this practice. In the United States, some parents have been caught mailing infected items to other parents; however, if the exposure involves the United States Postal Service transporting contaminated items, the practice is considered a federal offense.