June 10 (UPI) -- The risk of developing shingles drops drastically for children who are vaccinated for chickenpox, a new study shows.
Vaccinated children had a 78 percent lower risk of developing shingles than unvaccinated children, according to research published Monday Pediatrics.
"Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine, we have known how effective it is in preventing children from contracting that itchy and painful disease, but we set out to determine if the vaccine would also reduce risk of herpes zoster," Sheila Weinmann, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente and study lead investigator, said in a news release. "Our findings demonstrate that the vaccine does reduce the likelihood of shingles in kids, highlighting the dual benefits of the chickenpox vaccine."
For the study, researchers looked at medical records from six integrated health care organizations for 6.34 million children. They wanted to investigate whether varicella, or chickenpox vaccine, would either protect against or promote the development of shingles. Roughly 3 million were vaccinated for chickenpox and another 3 million were not.
The researchers discovered that 9,044 children who didn't receive the vaccination developed shingles versus 5,339 children who did receive the vaccination.
The study period lasted from 2003 to 2014. The rates of shingles in unvaccinated children rose in the first four years of the study before falling toward its end. The researchers suspect the increase in vaccination rates during the study period led to the lower risk of children developing shingles.
This works out to a 78 percent lower risk for children who are vaccinated than for those who remain unvaccinated.
The researchers found that more and more kids got vaccinated as years in the study progressed. That ultimately caused the rate of shingles to decrease by 72 percent.
Immunosuppressed children couldn't receive the vaccination, which gave them a five to six times higher risk of developing shingles than kids who were not immunosuppressed.
Shingles is an infection of varicella, the same virus that causes chickenpox. The immune system usually suppresses symptoms of the virus, which include skin rashes and persistent nerve pain.
Older people are most susceptible to developing shingles because of their weakened immune systems, but younger people can also get shingles.
Roughly one in three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Our findings demonstrate that the vaccine does reduce the likelihood of shingles in kids, highlighting the dual benefits of the chickenpox vaccine," Weinmann said.