Dr. Donald Levy, Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Orange County Ca

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Chickenpox Vaccine



















































































Office Location
705 W. La Veta Ave.
Suite 101
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 639-7847



Chickenpox Vaccine

Why Get Vaccinated?

Chickenpox (also called varicella) is a common childhood disease. It usually is mild, but it can be serious, especially in young infants and adults.

  • It causes a rash, itching, fever and tiredness.
  • It can lead to severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage or death.
  • The chickenpox virus can be spread from person to person through the air, or by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters.
  • A person who has had chickenpox can get a painful rash called shingles years later.
  • Before the vaccine, about 11,000 people were hospitalized for chickenpox each year in the United States.
  • Before the vaccine, about 100 people died each year as a result of chickenpox in the United States.

Chickenpox vaccine can prevent chickenpox.

Most people who get chickenpox vaccine will not get chickenpox. But if someone who has been vaccinated does get chickenpox, it is usually very mild. They will have 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 two doses of chickenpox vaccine at these ages:

  • 1st Dose: 12 to 15 months of age
  • 2nd Dose: 4 to 6 years of age (may be given earlier, if at least three months after the first dose)

People 13 years of age and older (who have never had chickenpox or received chickenpox vaccine) should get two doses at least 28 days apart.

Children or adolescents who are not fully vaccinated should receive one or two doses of chickenpox vaccine. The timing of these doses depends on the person’s age. Ask your provider.

Chickenpox vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.


Note: Chickenpox vaccine may be given along with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in a combination vaccine called MMRV.

Some People Should Not Get Chickenpox Vaccine or Should Wait

  • People should not get chickenpox vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine.
  • People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • Pregnant women should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for one month after getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get chickenpox vaccine, including anyone who:
    • 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 two weeks or longer
    • Has any kind of cancer
    • Is getting cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
  • People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they may get chickenpox vaccine.

Ask your doctor or nurse for more information.

What Are the Risks From Chickenpox Vaccine?

Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it.

However, a vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of chickenpox vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Mild Problems

  • Soreness or swelling where the shot was given (about one out of 5 children and up to one out of three adolescents and adults)
  • Fever (one person out of 10, or less)
  • Mild rash, up to a month after vaccination (one person out of 20, or less). It is possible for these people to infect other members of their household, but this is extremely rare.


Note: MMRV vaccine has been associated with higher rates of fever (up to about one person in five) and measles-like rash (about one person in 20) than MMR and varicella vaccines given separately.

Moderate Problems

  • Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (less than one person out of 1,000).

Severe Problems

  • Pneumonia (very rare)

Other serious problems, including severe brain reactions and low blood count, have been reported after chickenpox vaccination. These happen so rarely experts cannot tell whether they are caused by the vaccine or not. If they are, it is extremely rare.

What If There Is a Moderate or Severe Reaction?

What Should I Look For?

  • Any unusual condition, such as a high fever or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness.

What Should I Do?

  • Call a doctor, or get the person to a doctor right away.
  • Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse or health department to report the reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form. Or you can file this report through the VAERS Web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

VAERS does not provide medical advice.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

In the event that you or your child has a serious reaction to a vaccine, a federal program has been created to help pay for the care of those who have been harmed.

For details about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, call 1-800-338-2382 or visit its Web site at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.

How Can I Learn More?

  • Ask your doctor or nurse. They can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
  • Call your local or state health department.
  • Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated: January 10, 2007


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