Varicella (Chicken Pox) Vaccine

Varicella (Chickenpox) Information

Chickenpox is a viral disease caused by varicella zoster virus. The disease is highly contagious and can spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing, or by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters. Chickenpox is common in children but can affect a person at any age. An infected person usually develops an itchy, blister-like rash that covers the entire body. Other symptoms include fatigue and a fever, which develops just before or at the same time as the rash. Complications from the disease may lead to severe skin infection and scarring, pneumonia, brain damage, or even death.

Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine Information

Varicella vaccine is available as an individual vaccine or in combination with MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccines.

Varicella vaccine is given as an injection into the arm underneath the skin, which is known as a subcutaneous (SC) injection.

Who Should Receive the Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine?

  • All children 12 through 15 months of age
  • All children younger than age 13 who have never had chickenpox
  • All adolescents and adults 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox

Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccination Schedule

  • Children between 12-15 months of age: two doses separated by 4-6 years (Routine schedule)
  • Children younger than 13: two doses separated by at least 3 months
  • People 13 years of age and older: two doses separated by at least 4 weeks

Combination Varicella and MMR Vaccine

  • Children 12 months through 12 years of age: two doses separated by at least 3 months

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

Side Effects

Mild-to-Moderate Problems

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of injection
  • Mild rash
  • Mild to moderate fever (more common with the combination vaccine)

Severe Problems (Rare)

  • Seizure caused by fever
  • Pneumonia
  • Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
    • - Difficulty breathing
    • - Wheezing
    • - Hives
    • - Paleness
    • - Fast heartbeat
    • - Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to ease pain and reduce fever. It is extremely rare for these vaccines to cause serious harm or death. If there is a serious reaction, call a doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

It's recommended aspirin and aspirin-containing products be avoided in children for six weeks after receiving the vaccine to avoid Reye's syndrome, a disease that can cause complications in the liver and brain.

Who Should Not Receive the Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine?

  • Persons with moderate or severe illness (for example, a severe cold, flu or infection of the sinuses or lungs) should not receive the vaccine until symptoms of the illness improve.
  • People should check with their doctor about whether they should get the chickenpox vaccine if they:
    • - Have HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • - Are being treated with steroids (such as prednisone) for 2 weeks or longer
    • - Have cancer or are receiving cancer treatment
    • - Active, untreated tuberculosis
    • - Recently received a blood transfusion
  • Women who are pregnant should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women who plan to become pregnant should wait one month after getting chickenpox vaccine before trying to conceive.
  • People with an allergy or hypersensitivity to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin should not receive the vaccine.
  • Those who previously had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Additional Information

Tell your doctor or a healthcare provider if the person getting the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine has any severe allergies.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at, for more vaccine information.

This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Be sure to contact your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider for more information about human papillomavirus. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.


Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccine Information Statement: Chickenpox Vaccine. January 10, Accessed April 2008.

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