We've never had chicken pox: Should we vaccinate?

I recently read your response to a question regarding the chicken pox vaccine.

I am 27 years with a two year old. Neither of us have ever had chicken pox. My mother says she is certain that I never even had a small case. I was exposed to friends when they had it, and was actually babysitting my sister when she got it, but for some reason I never had the "pleasure" of getting the chicken pox. At the time, I thought I was lucky. However, now I am concerned. I understand that getting chicken pox as an adult is entirely different than when a child gets it. My daughter starts daycare soon, and I'm sure that will "up" her chances of getting it, as well as myself. Are we both prime candidates for the vaccine?


Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

With all your exposure to those with chicken pox, I'm suprised you didn't come down with it, but it is certainly possible. It's also possible you had such a mild case of it, you didn't realize you had it. However, you may now be immune to it as if you had had a full blown case.

There are two options concerning the vaccine for those who are unsure whether they had chicken pox or not:

  1. Just get the vaccine - It is not harmful to receive the vaccine if you already had chicken pox.
  2. Have your antibody titers checked - This is a blood test which can tell if you've been exposed to chicken pox in the past and are now immune. If you have antibodies to chicken pox already, you don't need the vaccine.

For children, many pediatricians are not testing for antibodies because it's an extra needle stick and an extra costly test. It's just easier in children to give the one shot. For adults, it's a little different because they require two shots. I'm uncertain how my colleagues taking care of adults are handling this question.

I encourage you to discuss these above options with your doctor because you yourself are a prime candidate for the vaccine. As for your daughter, I can only refer you to my previous answer on the subject. Remember it's your choice, and your daughter's doctor should (and I would) stand behind whichever decision you made.

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