One of the most common childhood diseases may soon become a thing of the past. On Tuesday, Health Canada announced it has approved a vaccine for chicken pox.
Some 350,000 Canadians get the annoying affliction every year. Most are children. While the chicken pox is not pleasant, causing itchy oozing blisters that last for about 10 days, there are rarely serious consequences.
However, the same virus is also responsible for shingles, a condition that generally affects adults and can be very painful.
Chicken pox ultimately infects 95 per cent of the population.
The vaccine, called Varivax, was developed by Merck Frosst of Quebec. It has been available in the United States since 1995 and will be available to Canadian doctors starting in January.
There are a number of concerns associated with the new vaccine. The drug needs to be kept frozen to remain effective. Some health care workers worry that doctors will not have the proper storage facilities to keep the vaccine potent.
As well, it is not known how long the drug will resist the chicken pox virus. Research shows the vaccine remains effective for at least 10 years, but when it wears off, it may be possible to develop chicken pox when it's more dangerous later in life.