Generic Name: varicella virus (chickenpox) vaccine (VAR i SEL a VYE rus vax EEN)
Brand Name: Varivax
What is varicella virus vaccine?
Varicella (commonly known as chickenpox) is a common childhood disease that causes fever, skin rash, and a breakout of fluid-filled blisters on the skin. Most people who receive this vaccine will not get chickenpox, or will get only a mild case and will recover faster.
Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be serious or even fatal in young infants and in adults. It can lead to severe skin infection, breathing problems, brain damage, or death. A person who has had chickenpox can develop herpes zoster (also called shingles) later in life, which causes painful blisters, skin infections, severe nerve pain, and hearing or vision problems, which may last for months or years.
Chickenpox is spread from person to person through the air, or by coming into contact with the fluid from a chickenpox blister.
Varicella virus vaccine is used to help prevent these diseases in adults and children who are at least 12 months old.
This vaccine works by exposing you to a small dose of the virus or a protein from the virus, which causes the body to develop immunity to the disease. This vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.
Like any vaccine, varicella virus vaccine may not provide protection from disease in every person.
What is the most important information I should know about this vaccine?
You should not receive this vaccine if you are allergic to gelatin or neomycin.
You should also not receive this vaccine if you have an infection or any illness with fever, active tuberculosis that is not being treated, or severe immune suppression.
You should not receive this vaccine if you are pregnant. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy for at least 3 months after receiving a varicella vaccine.
What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before receiving this vaccine?
You should not receive this vaccine if you are allergic to gelatin or neomycin, or if you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any vaccine containing varicella.
You should also not receive this vaccine if you have:
an infection or any illness with fever;
active tuberculosis that is not being treated;
severe immune suppression; or
if you are pregnant.
It is not known whether this vaccine will harm an unborn baby. However, chickenpox can cause birth defects, low birth weight, or a serious infection in the newborn, and this vaccine exposes you to a small amount of this virus. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant before you receive this vaccine. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy for at least 3 months after receiving a varicella vaccine.
To make sure varicella vaccine is safe for you, tell your doctor if:
you have a weak immune system caused by disease (such as cancer, HIV, or AIDS), or by receiving certain medicines such as steroids, chemotherapy or radiation;
someone in your household has a weak immune system; or
you have received an immune globulin or other blood product within the 5 months.
It is not known whether varicella vaccine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.
How is this vaccine given?
This vaccine is given as an injection under the skin. You will receive this injection in a doctor's office, clinic setting, or pharmacy.
Children from 12 months to 12 years old may receive only one dose, or may also be given a booster dose 3 months after the first. People who are at least 13 years old should receive two shots given 4 weeks apart.
Your individual booster schedule may be different from these guidelines. Follow your doctor's instructions or the schedule recommended by your local health department.
This vaccine can cause false results on a skin test for tuberculosis. Tell any doctor who treats you if you have received a varicella virus vaccine within the past 4 to 6 weeks.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Contact your doctor if you will miss a booster dose or if you get behind schedule. The next dose should be given as soon as possible. There is no need to start over.
Be sure to receive all recommended doses of this vaccine. You may not be fully protected against disease if you do not receive the full series.
What happens if I overdose?
An overdose of this vaccine is unlikely to occur.
What should I avoid before or after receiving this vaccine?
For at least 6 weeks after receiving a varicella vaccine, avoid coming into contact with newborn infants, pregnant women who have never had chickenpox, and anyone who has a weak immune system. There is a chance that you could pass the virus to a person with a weak immune system or no immunity to chickenpox.
This vaccine side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: dizziness, weakness, fast heartbeats; hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life-threatening allergic reaction after the first shot.
Keep track of any and all side effects you have after receiving this vaccine. When you receive a booster dose, you will need to tell the doctor if the previous shots caused any side effects.
Becoming infected with chickenpox is much more dangerous to your health than receiving this vaccine. However, like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.
Call your doctor at once if you have:
seizure (black-out or convulsions; can occur up to 12 days after vaccination);
cough, pain or tight feeling in your chest, breathing problems; or
easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness.
Common side effects include:
redness, itching, tenderness, swelling, bruising, or a lump where the shot was given;
low fever; or
mild skin rash that looks like chickenpox (can occur up to 1 month after vaccination).
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report vaccine side effects to the US Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-822-7967.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect varicella virus vaccine?
For anyone under 18 years old: Do not take a salicylate medicine (such as aspirin, Kaopectate, KneeRelief, Pamprin Cramp Formula, Pepto-Bismol, Tricosal, Trilisate, and others) for at least 6 weeks after receiving a varicella virus vaccine. Salicylates can cause Reye's syndrome, a serious and sometimes fatal condition in children or teenagers with chickenpox, and the varicella virus exposes you to a small amount of this virus.
There may be other drugs that can affect this vaccine. Tell your doctor about all your medications and any you start or stop using during your varicella virus vaccine booster schedule. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.
More about Varivax (varicella virus vaccine)
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Where can I get more information?
- Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about this vaccine. Additional information is available from your local health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
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