The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine can prevent you or your child from getting chickenpox. The varicella vaccine is given in two doses. Side effects are usually mild and can include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. Serious reactions are rare. All children ages 12 months and older and most adults should get the chickenpox vaccine.
The chickenpox vaccine can protect you or your child from chickenpox. Chickenpox is a contagious disease that causes an itchy rash. The rash starts on your chest, back and face, and then spreads over your entire body. The chickenpox vaccine is called the varicella vaccine because the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes the disease.
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The chickenpox vaccine can prevent chickenpox. Every year, the chickenpox vaccine prevents more than 3.5 million cases of chickenpox, 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths in the U.S.
Healthcare providers started giving the chickenpox vaccine in 1995. Chickenpox used to be a very common childhood disease. Before the chickenpox vaccine became available, about 4 million people got chickenpox each year. Between 10,500 and 13,000 people were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 people died each year from chickenpox.
All children ages 12 months and older — as well as adults who haven’t had chickenpox — should receive the chickenpox vaccine. This is especially important for adults who are:
Some people shouldn’t get the chickenpox vaccine. These people include:
Ask your healthcare provider if you should receive the chickenpox vaccine if you:
The chickenpox vaccine is part of the childhood immunization schedule. Healthcare providers give the chickenpox vaccine in two doses. Your child should receive their first dose between the ages of 12 months and 15 months. They should receive their second dose between the ages of 4 and 6 years old.
Your child’s healthcare provider may give your child the varicella vaccine at the same time as other vaccines. Children between the ages of 12 months and 12 years can receive the varicella vaccine together with the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. At 12 to 15 months, the chickenpox vaccine and MMR vaccine are usually given separately. At 4 to 6 years old, these two vaccines are often given as a single shot known as MMRV.
In the United States, there are two varicella vaccines authorized for use:
While usually mild, chickenpox can be serious in babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Chickenpox can cause skin infections, pneumonia, blood vessel inflammation, brain and/or spinal cord covering swelling, and infections in your bloodstream, bones or joints.
The most common side effects of the chickenpox vaccine include:
Severe reactions to the chickenpox vaccine are very rare. If you or your child develops any of the following signs of an allergic reaction, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room:
Serious reactions to the chickenpox vaccine are extremely rare. Reactions that can occur include:
The chickenpox vaccine is very effective. More than 90% of people who receive the chickenpox vaccine won’t get chickenpox.
While the chickenpox vaccine is highly effective, some people can still get chickenpox. However, people who do get chickenpox after getting the chickenpox vaccine usually don’t get as sick and usually have very few skin lesions.
Most children and adults who receive two doses of the chickenpox vaccine will have protection from chickenpox for life.
Some people get shingles years after they received the chickenpox vaccine. Shingles (also called herpes zoster) causes a painful rash. However, it's much less common to get shingles after receiving the chickenpox vaccine than after having chickenpox.
It’s normal to have questions before you or your child gets a vaccine. Some common questions you may want to discuss with your healthcare provider include:
Anyone who hasn’t gotten chickenpox should get the chickenpox vaccine. Older children and adults can get it at any time. Older children and adults should receive two doses at least 28 days apart if they’ve never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine.
The chickenpox vaccine is included in the childhood immunization schedule. School enrollment requirements and mandatory vaccinations are decided on a state-by-state basis.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The chickenpox vaccine can protect you or your child from chickenpox. Chickenpox causes an itchy rash, fever, headache and other symptoms. While usually mild, chickenpox can lead to serious health issues in babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. The chickenpox vaccine is 90% effective in preventing chickenpox. Side effects are usually mild and can include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. Serious reactions are rare. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you or your child should get the chickenpox vaccine.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/23/2021.
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