by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
What Is Varicella?
Varicella (chickenpox) is an infection caused by a virus. The virus spreads easily from person to person by:
The infection causes a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that scab and fall off. A severe infection can lead to more serious problems like scarring, pneumonia, and death. Newborns, adults, and people who have problems with how their immune system works are at greater risk of problems.
What Is the Varicella Vaccine?
The varicella vaccine is a live virus that is given by injection. The vaccine works by causing the body to produce its own protection against the virus.
The varicella vaccine can also be given in a combination vaccine called the MMRV. This protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The vaccine is recommended for children aged 12 to 15 months. A second dose is given between ages 4 to 6 years.
Older children, teens, and adults are advised to get 2 doses of the vaccine if they are not already immune to varicella.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Varicella Vaccine?
Common side effects are:
Less common, but more serious side effects are:
People who have problems with how their immune system works may get a life-threatening infection.
Some people who get the vaccine can get shingles years later. This is much less common after vaccination than after varicella.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
People should not get the vaccine if they:
People who are moderately or severely ill should wait to get the vaccine.
What Other Ways Can Varicella Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
The risk of this problem can be lowered by avoiding contact with people who have the virus.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
In the event of an outbreak, people who have not had the virus or the vaccine should be vaccinated.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chickenpox. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chickenpox. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Chickenpox VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/varicella.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.
MMRV and febrile Seizures. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/mmrv/mmrv-febrile-seizures.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/varicella/index.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated: 9/7/2021
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