Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine (VIS)

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1. Why get vaccinated?

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

  • It causes a rash, itching, fever, and

  • 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.

2. Who should get chickenpox vaccine and when?


Children who have never had chickenpox
should get 2 doses of chickenpox vaccine at these ages:

1st Dose: 12-15 months of age
2nd Dose: 4-6 years of age (may be given earlier, if at least 3 months
after the 1st 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.


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 person’s age. Ask your

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

Note: A “combination” vaccine called
MMRV, which contains both chickenpox and
MMR vaccines, may be given instead of the two individual
vaccines to people 12 years of age and younger.

3. 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 a previous
    dose of chickenpox vaccine or to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.

  • 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 1 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 2 weeks or

    • – 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 provider for more information.

4. What are the risks from chickenpox vaccine?

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.

Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than
getting chickenpox disease. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine do not have
any problems with it. Reactions are usually more likely after the first dose
than after the second.

Mild Problems

  • Soreness or swelling where the shot
    was given (about 1 out of 5 children and up to 1 out of 3
    adolescents and adults)

  • Fever (1 person out of 10, or

  • Mild rash, up to a month after
    vaccination (1 person out of 25). It is possible for these people to
    infect other members of their household, but this is extremely

Moderate Problems

  • Seizure (jerking or staring) caused
    by fever (very rare).

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.

Note: The first dose of
MMRV vaccine has been associated with rash and higher
rates of fever than MMR and varicella vaccines given separately. Rash
has been reported in about 1 person in 20 and fever in about 1 person in

Seizures caused by a fever are also
reported more often after MMRV. These usually occur 5-12 days after the
first dose.

5. What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?

What should I look for?

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

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 provider to
    report the reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting
    System (VAERS) form.

Or you can file this report through the
VAERS website at, or by
calling 1-800-822-7967.

VAERS does not provide medical advice.

6. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

A federal program has been created to help
people who may have been harmed by a vaccine.

For details about the National Vaccine Injury
Compensation Program, call 1-800-338-2382 or visittheir website at

7. How can I learn more?

  • Ask your provider. They can give you the
    vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.

  • Call your local or state health

  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control
    and Prevention (CDC):

    • – Call 1-800-232-4636

    • – Visit CDC website at:

Vaccine Information Statement (Interim)

Varicella Vaccine (3/13/08)

42 U.S.C. §300aa-26