Varicella-Zoster Virus Vaccine Live injection

The var vaccine reduces your risk of getting chickenpox caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox produces a red rash that blisters, then scabs over. It’s very contagious. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

What is this medication?

VARICELLA VACCINE (var uh SEL uh vak SEEN) is a vaccine used to reduce the risk of getting chickenpox. This vaccine does not treat chickenpox.

This medicine may be used for other purposes; ask your health care provider or pharmacist if you have questions.

COMMON BRAND NAME(S): Varivax, Zostavax


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What should I tell my care team before I take this medication?

They need to know if you have any of the following conditions:

  • cancer
  • fever or infection
  • immune system problems
  • infection such as tuberculosis
  • an unusual or allergic reaction to Varicella-Zoster virus vaccine, other medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • breast-feeding

How should I use this medication?

This vaccine is injected under the skin. It is given by a health care provider.

A copy of Vaccine Information Statements will be given before each vaccination. Be sure to read this information carefully each time. This sheet may change often.

Talk to your health care provider about the use of this vaccine in children. While it may be given to children as young as 12 months of age for selected conditions, precautions do apply.

Overdosage: If you think you have taken too much of this medicine contact a poison control center or emergency room at once.

NOTE: This medicine is only for you. Do not share this medicine with others.


What if I miss a dose?

Keep appointments for follow-up (booster) doses. It is important not to miss your dose. Call your health care provider if you are unable to keep an appointment.

What may interact with this medication?

Do not take this medicine with any of the following medications:

  • medicines that lower your chance of fighting infection
  • medicines to treat cancer

This medicine may also interact with the following medications:

  • aspirin and aspirin-like medicines
  • blood transfusions
  • immunoglobulins
  • steroid medicines like prednisone or cortisone

This list may not describe all possible interactions. Give your health care provider a list of all the medicines, herbs, non-prescription drugs, or dietary supplements you use. Also tell them if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs. Some items may interact with your medicine.


What should I watch for while using this medication?

Visit your health care provider regularly.

This vaccine, like all vaccines, may not fully protect everyone.

Do not become pregnant for 3 months after getting this vaccine. Women should inform their health care provider if they wish to become pregnant or think they might be pregnant. There is potential for serious harm to an unborn child. Talk to your health care provider for more information.

After getting this vaccine, it may be possible to give chickenpox to others. For 6 weeks, avoid people with low immune systems. Also avoid pregnant women who have not had chickenpox and newborns of mothers who have not had chickenpox. Avoid any newborn baby that was born at less than 28 weeks of pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider if questions.

What side effects may I notice from receiving this medication?

Side effects that you should report to your doctor or health care professional as soon as possible:

  • allergic reactions (skin rash, itching or hives; swelling of the face, lips, or tongue)
  • change in emotions or moods
  • fever over 102 degrees F
  • redness, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, including inside the mouth
  • seizures
  • trouble breathing
  • unusually weak or tired

Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your doctor or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome):

  • chickenpox-like rash
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • low-grade fever under 102 degrees F
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • pain, redness, or irritation at site where injected
  • trouble sleeping
  • vomiting

This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Where should I keep my medication?

This vaccine is only given by a health care provider. It will not be stored at home.

NOTE: This sheet is a summary. It may not cover all possible information. If you have questions about this medicine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider.

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Note: Introduction and Additional Common Questions written and medically approved by Cleveland Clinic professionals.

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