Vaccines to Prevent Chickenpox: Varicella

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time. Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.

Updated: December 4, 2017

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time.  Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.
Chickenpox is caused by varicella zoster virus. It is aso called varicella and is characterized by itchy red blisters that appear all over the body. The most common symptom of chickenpox is an itchy rash that turns into fluid-filled blisters and spreads all over the body. Other typical symptoms that may begin to appear 1 to 2 days before the rash include high fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache. The infection will have to be in your body for around seven to 21 days before the rash and other symptoms develop.
Chickenpox is very contagious and spreads easily from infected people. It can spread from either a cough or a sneeze. It can also spread by contact with virus particles that come from the blisters on the skin, either by touching them or by breathing in virus particles.
A person who has had chickenpox can get a painful rash called shingles years later.

Vaccines to Prevent Chickenpox:

There are two type of vaccines available for chickenpox. These are

  • Varicella: Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
  • MMRV: Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella (chickenpox) combination vaccine

Varicella: Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine:

Varicella chickenpox vaccine

can prevent chickenpox. Most people will not get chickenpox if they are vaccinated. But in case if someone get chickenpox despite of taking vaccine, it will be very mild with fewer blisters, are less likely to have a fever, and will recover faster.

Who should get chickenpox vaccine and when?

  • Children who have never had chickenpox should get first dose of vaccine at the age of 12-15 months and second, 3 months after the first dose or at the age of 4-6 years.
  • Children who have never had chickenpox or received chickenpox vaccine till the age of 13, they should get two doses at least 28 days apart.
  • Anyone who is not fully vaccinated, and never had chickenpox, should receive one or two doses of chickenpox vaccine.

The timing of these doses depends on the age of the individuals. It may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Things and condition taken to be consideration before taking chickenpox vaccine are:

  • If you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin, you should not get chickenpox vaccine.
  • If you are  moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should wait until you recover before getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting chickenpox vaccine and should not get the vaccine during pregnancy. They can get it after they have given birth to the child.

You should check with your doctor before taking the vaccine if you have any of these below health condition:

  • Has HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
  • Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer
  • Has any kind of cancer
  • Is getting cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
  • If recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products

Risks from chickenpox vaccine:

A vaccine can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Reactions are usually more likely after the first dose than the second one. The risk include:

  • Soreness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Mild rash, up to a month after vaccination
  • Fever
  • Seizure caused by fever which is very rare
  • Pneumonia which is also very rare
  • Severe brain reactions and low blood count which is extremely rare.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.


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