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Unvaccinated Majority in NYC Chickenpox Outbreak Sparks Concern

Representation for vaccination administration | Credits: Getty Images

United States: As the number of cases of chickenpox is increasing, health experts are appealing to receive vaccination against the disease. Recently, the local health authorities of the United States have outlined that amid an ongoing outbreak of chickenpox in New York City, the vast majority of infected individuals lack vaccination, as outlined in a recent publication.

Initially detected by municipal health authorities in October 2022, the outbreak primarily affected migrants from or via central and South America residing in shelters or residential compounds.

Authored collaboratively by various New York City entities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report delved into patient interviews and scrutiny of medical documentation by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Representation for rashes caused due to chickenpox infection | Credits: iStock

Spanning from September 2022 to March 2024, the report linked 873 individuals testing positive for chickenpox to the outbreak.

Of these individuals, 91.9% lacked any evidence of prior chickenpox vaccination upon symptom onset. Data indicated that 6.8% had received a single dose, while merely 1.4% had completed two doses.

In the United States, two chickenpox vaccines are approved. The primary vaccine, administered in two doses, can be given to children aged 12 to 15 months for the first dose and 4 to 6 years for the second.

The secondary vaccine combines chickenpox with the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, approved for children aged 12 months to 12 years.

Research reveals the efficacy of the standalone chickenpox vaccine to be 82% after one dose and 92% after two doses, with complete immunity against severe cases after one or two doses.

Commencing in 1995, the US chickenpox vaccination initiative has significantly curbed annual cases by 97%, as reported by the CDC.

Furthermore, the report delineates demographic breakdowns and transmission sources. The preponderance of cases—53%—occurred in individuals aged 4 to 18, with adults over 18 constituting 29.4% and children under 4 representing 17.5%.

Among the 780 patients tracing the source of infection, 41.3% were exposed in shelters or residential settings, while 39.4% were imported cases, manifesting symptoms post-arrival in New York City. School-related transmissions accounted for a mere 1.2%.

Representation for dosage against chickenpox infection

The report underscores that many recent migrants originate from regions lacking routine chickenpox vaccination or experiencing elevated incidence rates. Disruptions due to COVID-19 or political unrest may have impeded vaccination efforts in countries with established programs.

The authors emphasize the imperative of bolstering chickenpox vaccination rates to mitigate transmission amidst continued importations and exposures in US shelters and residential facilities.

While some individuals may endure complications necessitating hospitalization, such occurrences are rare in contemporary times due to the widespread adoption of vaccination programs in the United States.

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