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The chickenpox vaccine
is an injection given to protect you from chickenpox. Chickenpox is a common childhood infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus causes fever and an itchy rash that spreads over the entire body. The rashes turn into small blisters that dry up to form scabs. The infection may spread and damage your skin, lungs, and brain. The chickenpox vaccine may be given by itself or combined with other vaccines.
Who should get the chickenpox vaccine:
Adults who have never had chickenpox may need the chickenpox vaccine. Adults should receive 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart. If you have only had 1 dose, you need another dose. The following groups are at higher risk for infection and may need the chickenpox vaccine:
- Healthcare workers
- People who live or work near others who have decreased immunity
- Childcare workers
- College students
- People in the military
- Residents and staff of institutional settings
- People who live in a household with children
- Travelers to other countries
- Women who are not pregnant but are of childbearing age
- People with chronic conditions such as liver, kidney, lung, or heart disease
Who should not get the chickenpox vaccine:
Do not get the chickenpox vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction to neomycin, gelatin, or a previous chickenpox vaccine. The following people usually do not need the chickenpox vaccine because they are already protected:
- Anyone who has already had chickenpox or shingles
- Anyone born in the United States before 1980 except healthcare workers and pregnant women
Who should wait to get the chickenpox vaccine:
- Anyone who is sick or has a fever should wait until he or she feels better to get the vaccine.
- A pregnant woman should wait to get the vaccine until after she gives birth. A woman should not get pregnant for 1 month after she gets the vaccine. A woman who is trying to get pregnant should wait until her healthcare provider says it is okay to get the vaccine.
- Anyone who takes antiviral medicine should stop the medicine and wait at least 1 day before getting the chickenpox vaccine. Examples of antiviral medicines include acyclovir and valacyclovir.
- Do not take salicylate medicine, such as aspirin, for 6 weeks after getting the chickenpox vaccine.
- Anyone who gets a smallpox vaccine should wait at least 4 weeks before getting the chickenpox vaccine.
- Ask your healthcare provider if you should get the chickenpox vaccine if:
- You are being treated with medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids.
- You have a family member with a history of an immune system problem.
- You have a disease that weakens the immune system, such as cancer, HIV, or AIDS.
- You have received a blood transfusion in the past 3 to 11 months.
- You have untreated, active tuberculosis (TB).
Risks of the chickenpox vaccine:
The area where the vaccine was given may be red, tender, or swollen. You may still get chickenpox, even after you get the vaccine. You may have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. This can be life-threatening.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- Your mouth and throat are swollen.
- You are wheezing or have trouble breathing.
- You have chest pain or your heart is beating faster than usual.
- You feel like you are going to faint.
Call your doctor if:
- Your face is red or swollen.
- You have hives that spread over your body.
- You feel weak or dizzy.
- You have increased pain, redness, or swelling around the area where the shot was given.
- You have questions or concerns about the chickenpox vaccine.
Apply a warm compress
to the injection area as directed to decrease pain and swelling.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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