Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Chickenpox Vaccine

Why is a vaccine for chickenpox needed?

Chickenpox is a disease that can be very easily spread from person to person. It is most common in children. Most cases occur in people who are under 15 years old.
Chickenpox is usually a mild illness, but it can cause problems like brain swelling, pneumonia and skin infections. Some children get sicker than others. Chickenpox may be a very serious illness in infants and adults.
Because chickenpox is so contagious, a child with chickenpox shouldn't go to school or day care until all the sores have dried or crusted. Many parents miss work during the time their child is ill with chickenpox. Because of the lost time from work, chickenpox can be a significant cost to parents of children who get the illness.

What is the varicella vaccine?

The varicella vaccine is a shot that can prevent chickenpox. It is called varicella vaccine because the varicella virus causes chickenpox. Up to 90% of people who receive the vaccine will not get chickenpox. People who get chickenpox after having the vaccine have a milder form of the disease.

Who should be vaccinated against chickenpox?

The chicken pox vaccine is not required like some other vaccines. However, it is generally safe and will save your child from suffering with a preventable illness. Talk to your doctor about the vaccine if you have questions. The vaccine is given to children from 12 to 18 months of age. Older children can be given the vaccine if they haven't had chickenpox.
Adults who haven't had chickenpox but who work in health care or day care should probably receive the varicella vaccine. Also, college students or staff or inmates of correctional institutions should probably receive the vaccine if they haven't had chickenpox. Women of childbearing age who are not pregnant and who have not had chickenpox should have the varicella vaccine. Your doctor may suggest you have the vaccine if you've never had chickenpox and are an adult, especially if you will be travelling to other countries.

Who shouldn't receive the varicella vaccine?

People with immune diseases should not receive the vaccine. People who are receiving high doses of steroids (such as prednisone) should not be vaccinated. Pregnant women should not receive the vaccine.

Are there any side effects from the varicella vaccine?

The most common side effects are pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. Severe reactions are rare.