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Children's Vaccines Health Center

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Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine


Are Children Required to Get a Chickenpox Vaccination?

Most states require that children entering child care, school and even colleges and universities, show evidence of immunity to chickenpox either by having had the illness or documentation of receiving the chickenpox vaccine.


Who Should Get Vaccinated With the Chickenpox Vaccine?

The chickenpox vaccine is recommended for all children under age 13 who have not had chickenpox. It is also recommended for all adolescents and adults who have not been vaccinated and have not had chickenpox.

If you have had chickenpox, there is no need for you to get the vaccine.

Since 2005, the vaccine has also been available as part of a combination vaccine called MMRV, which offers protection against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.

How Many Shots of the Chickenpox Vaccine Are Needed?

The varicella vaccine is given in two doses. A child should have the first shot at ages 12-18 months. The second shot should be given at ages 4-6 years. Older children and adults should have two shots, with four to eight weeks between the first and second shot.

Are There Side Effects Associated With the Chickenpox Vaccine?

All medicines have potential side effects. But the side effects associated with the varicella vaccine are generally mild. The most common are pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site. A small percentage of people develop a mild rash, usually around the spot where the shot was given. Severe side effects are very rare.

Are There People Who Should Not Get a Chickenpox Shot?

Anyone who is moderately to severely ill when a chickenpox shot is scheduled should wait until the illness passes before getting the shot. Also, anyone who had an allergic reaction to the first shot should not get the second shot.

Other people who should not get the shot include:

  • Pregnant women, because the vaccine's effect on the fetus is not known
  • Anyone allergic to gelatin; a gelatin-free version of the varicella vaccine is available.
  • Anyone allergic to neomycin
  • Anyone with an immune system disease
  • Anyone receiving high doses of steroids
  • Anyone being treated for cancer with X-rays, drugs, or chemotherapy
  • Anyone who had a transfusion or received blood products within five months prior to the shot


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