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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Chickenpox Vaccine: What You Need to Know
Varicella (also called chickenpox) is a very contagious viral disease. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus. Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be serious in infants under 12 months of age, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.
Chickenpox causes an itchy rash that usually lasts about a week. It can also cause:
More serious complications can include:
Some people get so sick that they need to be hospitalized. It doesn't happen often, but people can die from chickenpox. Before varicella vaccine, almost everyone in the United States got chickenpox, an average of 4 million people each year.
Children who get chickenpox usually miss at least 5 or 6 days of school or childcare.
Some people who get chickenpox get a painful rash called shingles (also known as herpes zoster) years later.
Chickenpox can spread easily from an infected person to anyone who has not had chickenpox and has not gotten chickenpox vaccine.
Children 12 months through 12 years of age should get 2 doses of chickenpox vaccine, usually:
People 13 years of age or older who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger, and have never had chickenpox, should get 2 doses at least 28 days apart.
A person who previously received only one dose of chickenpox vaccine should receive a second dose to complete the series. The second dose should be given at least 3 months after the first dose for those younger than 13 years, and at least 28 days after the first dose for those 13 years of age or older.
There are no known risks to getting chickenpox vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.
There is a combination vaccine called MMRV that contains both chickenpox and MMR vaccines. MMRV is an option for some children 12 months through 12 years of age. There is a separate Vaccine Information Statement for MMRV. Your health care provider can give you more information.
Tell your vaccine provider if the person getting the vaccine:
With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of reactions. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it.
After chickenpox vaccination, a person might experience:
If these events happen, they usually begin within 2 weeks after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
More serious events following chickenpox vaccination are rare. They can include:
Other things that could happen after this vaccine:
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor should file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not give medical advice..
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.
Vaccine Information Statement (Interim)
42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26
Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages. See www.immunize.org/vis
Hojas de información sobre vacunas están disponibles en español y en muchos otros idiomas. Visite www.immunize.org/vis
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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