The varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox (varicella), a common and very contagious childhood viral illness.
The varicella vaccine is given by injection when kids are between 12 and 15 months old. They receive a booster shot for further protection at 4 to 6 years of age.
Kids who are older than 6 but younger than 13 who have not had chickenpox also may receive the vaccine, with the two doses given at least 3 months apart.
Kids 13 years or older who have not had either chickenpox or the vaccine need two vaccine doses at least 1 month apart.
The varicella vaccine prevents severe illness in almost all kids who are immunized. It's up to 85% effective in preventing mild illness. Vaccinated kids who do get chickenpox generally have a mild case.
Possible mild effects are tenderness and redness where the shot was given, fever, fatigue, and a varicella-like illness. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction with any vaccine.
A rash can occur up to 1 month after the injection. It may last for several days but will disappear on its own without treatment. There is a very small risk of febrile seizures after vaccination.
The vaccine is not recommended if:
Talk to your doctor about whether being vaccinated is a good idea if your child:
Your doctor may determine that the benefits of vaccinating your child outweigh the potential risks.
Pregnant women should not receive the chickenpox vaccine until after childbirth.
Pain and fever can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication and to find out the appropriate dose.
Call your doctor if:
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2015
|CDC: Vaccines & Immunizations The CDC's site has information on vaccines, including immunization schedules, recommendations, FAQs, and more.|
|Immunization Action Coalition This organization is a source of childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization information as well as hepatitis B educational materials.|
|CDC: Preteen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, preteens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.|
|Word! Varicella Zoster This is the medical name for the virus that causes chicken pox, which is known for its red, itchy bumps.|
|First Aid: Chickenpox Chickenpox (varicella) has become less common in the U.S. due to the chickenpox vaccine, but it can easily spread from one person to another.|
|Immunization Schedule Which vaccines does your child need to receive and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference.|
|Your Child's Immunizations Immunizations protect your child from potentially fatal diseases. Find out what vaccines your child needs to grow up healthy.|
|What Makes Chickenpox Itch? Chickenpox can make you itch like crazy. Find out why in this article for kids.|
|A Kid's Guide to Shots If you're old enough to read this, you've probably had most of your shots. But even bigger kids may need a shot once in a while. Find out more about them in this article for kids.|
|Immunizations Missing out on shots puts you at more serious risk than you might think. That one little "ouch" moment protects you from some major health problems.|
|Shingles Shingles is rare in teens with healthy immune systems, and mostly affects older adults. But it's good to know the basics about this skin rash, which is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.|
|Shingles Shingles isn't very common in kids - it mostly affects older people. Find out what causes shingles, symptoms to watch for, and what to do if your child has it.|
|Chickenpox It's most common in kids under age 12, but anyone can get chickenpox. The good news is that a vaccine can prevent most cases.|
|Chickenpox Chickenpox is a virus that causes red, itchy bumps. Find out more in this article for kids.|
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