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Chickenpox Vaccine, Ambulatory Care

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:

  • Children should receive 2 chickenpox vaccinations. The first dose is given at 12 to 15 months. The second dose is given at 4 to 6 years. The second dose may be given before a child is 4 years old if at least 3 months have passed since the first dose. There must be at least 3 months between doses for children aged 7 to 12 years. There must be at least 4 weeks between doses for children 13 years or older.
  • 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
    • Teachers
    • 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

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 had 2 doses of the chickenpox vaccine at least 4 weeks apart
  • 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 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 medicines, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir. These medicines should be stopped for at least 1 day before you get 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 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).

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • A swollen mouth or throat
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or a fast heartbeat
  • Feeling faint

Seek immediate care for any of the following:

  • A red or swollen face
  • Hives that spread over your body
  • Feeling weak or dizzy

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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