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Chickenpox Vaccine

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is the chickenpox vaccine?

The vaccine is an injection given to protect you from chickenpox. Chickenpox is a disease caused by the varicella virus. The vaccine may be given by itself or combined with other vaccines.

Why may I need the chickenpox vaccine?

You may need the vaccine if you never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. You will need 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart. If you have only had 1 dose, you need another dose. You are at higher risk for chickenpox and may need the vaccine if:

  • You are a healthcare worker, or you live or work near others who have decreased immunity.
  • You are a teacher, a college student, or are in the military.
  • You work in childcare or live in a household with a child.
  • You live or work in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home.
  • You travel to other countries.
  • You are a woman who is not pregnant but is of childbearing age.
  • You have a chronic condition, such as liver, kidney, lung, or heart disease.

What should I tell my doctor before I get the chickenpox vaccine?

  • You take a medicine that weakens the immune system, such as steroids.
  • You take a salicylate medicine, such as aspirin.
  • You have a weak immune system, such as from cancer or HIV, or a family history of immune system problems.
  • You have any severe allergies.
  • You received a blood transfusion in the past 3 to 11 months.
  • You received any other vaccines within the past 4 weeks.
  • You are a woman and know or think you are pregnant.
  • You already had chickenpox or shingles, or you were born in the United States before 1980. You may already be protected and may not need the chickenpox vaccine. You will still need the vaccine if you are a healthcare worker. Your provider may also recommend the vaccine if you are at high risk for chickenpox.

What are reasons I should not get the chickenpox vaccine?

  • You had an allergic reaction to neomycin or gelatin.
  • You had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine. Do not get the second dose.

What are reasons I should wait to get the chickenpox vaccine?

  • You are sick or have a fever.
  • You are a pregnant woman. Wait to get the vaccine until after you give birth. If you are trying to get pregnant, wait until your healthcare provider says it is okay to get the vaccine.
  • You take antiviral medicine. You will need to stop the medicine and wait at least 1 day before you get the chickenpox vaccine. Examples of antiviral medicines include acyclovir and valacyclovir.
  • You got a smallpox vaccine. Wait at least 4 weeks before you get the chickenpox vaccine.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What are the 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 also get shingles later. Shingles is a painful rash caused by the varicella virus. The chickenpox vaccine will lower your risk for shingles, but you may still get it. You may also have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. This can be life-threatening.

What do I need to know about safety after the chickenpox vaccine?

  • If you develop a rash, do not go near anyone who is not protected against chickenpox. A rash is a sign that the varicella virus can spread to others. Your healthcare provider can tell you when you will no longer be able to spread varicella. This is usually after the rash goes away.
  • Do not take salicylate medicine for 6 weeks after you get the vaccine.
  • Do not get pregnant for 1 month after you get the vaccine.

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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your face is red or swollen.
  • You have hives that spread over your body.

When should I call my doctor?

  • 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.

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 healthcare providers 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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