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Varicella virus vaccine Side Effects

For the Consumer

Applies to varicella virus vaccine: subcutaneous powder for solution

As well as its needed effects, varicella virus vaccine may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking varicella virus vaccine, check with your doctor or nurse immediately:

More common:
  • Fever over 39 °C (102 °F)
Less common:
  • Blue lips and fingernails
  • chest pain
  • chickenpox-like skin rash
  • coughing that sometimes produces a pink frothy sputum
  • decreased urine output
  • difficult, fast, or noisy breathing, sometimes with wheezing
  • dilated neck veins
  • extreme fatigue
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • increased sweating
  • irregular breathing
  • irregular heartbeat
  • irritability
  • pale skin
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the ankles, face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • tightness in the chest
  • troubled breathing
  • weight gain
  • wheezing
  • Black, tarry stools
  • blood in the urine or stools
  • chills
  • confusion
  • convulsions (seizures) with high fever
  • cough
  • difficulty with breathing or swallowing
  • fever
  • hives
  • itching, especially of the feet or hands
  • muscle or joint pain
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • reddening of the skin, especially around the ears
  • severe or continuing headache
  • stiff neck
  • swelling of the glands in the neck
  • thickening of bronchial secretions
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • unusual tiredness or weakness, sudden and severe
  • vomiting
Incidence not known:
  • Back pain, sudden and severe
  • bleeding gums
  • blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • bloody nose
  • blurred vision
  • bruising more easily
  • convulsions (seizures)
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat
  • headache
  • heavier menstrual periods
  • inability to move the arms and legs
  • inability to speak
  • itching
  • large, flat, blue, or purplish patches in the skin
  • large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  • loss of bladder control
  • muscle spasm or jerking of all extremities
  • painful blisters on the trunk of the body
  • painful knees and ankles
  • pale skin
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • raised red swellings on the skin, buttocks, legs, or ankles
  • rapid weight gain
  • red irritated eyes
  • red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • shakiness and unsteady walk
  • skin rash
  • slurred speech
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
  • stomach pain
  • sudden loss of consciousness
  • sudden numbness and weakness in the arms and legs
  • swelling or puffiness of the face
  • swollen or painful glands
  • temporary blindness
  • tingling of the hands or feet
  • unsteadiness, trembling, or other problems with muscle control or coordination
  • unusual weight gain or loss
  • weakness in the arm or leg on one side of the body, sudden and severe
  • weakness of the muscles in your face

Minor Side Effects

Some varicella virus vaccine side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

More common:
  • Fever of 37.7 °C (100 °F) or higher, but not above 39 °C (102 °F)
  • hives, itching, pain, redness, soreness, tenderness, or warmth at the injection site
Less common:
  • Common cold
  • congestion
  • constipation
  • cracked, dry, or scaly skin
  • diaper rash
  • diarrhea
  • disturbed sleep
  • dry skin
  • earache
  • heat rash or prickly heat
  • lack or loss of strength
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle aching or cramping
  • muscle stiffness
  • nausea
  • nervousness
  • runny nose
  • skin rash, encrusted, scaly, and oozing
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • stuffy nose
  • swelling
  • swollen joints
  • teething
Incidence not known:
  • Bacterial skin infections
  • body aches or pain
  • burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
  • difficulty with moving
  • dryness or soreness of the throat
  • hoarseness
  • pain, redness, swelling, tenderness, or warmth on the skin
  • red rash with watery, yellow-colored, or pus filled blisters
  • tender, swollen glands in the neck
  • thick yellow to honey-colored crusts
  • voice changes

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to varicella virus vaccine: subcutaneous powder for injection


The most common adverse events were injection site reactions and fever.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Fever (27%), otitis media (12%)
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Otitis, viral infection, asthenia, hematoma, malaise
Rare (less than 0.1%): Ear pain, infection, candidiasis, non-venomous bite/sting, heaviness
Frequency not reported: Insect bites[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Injection site complaints (pain/soreness, swelling and/or erythema, rash, pruritus, hematoma, induration, stiffness) (32.5%)
Common (1% to 10%): Varicella-like rash (injection site)
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Injection site ecchymosis, induration
Rare (less than 0.1%): Extravasation, injection site eczema, lump, warmth, stiffness, pain/tenderness/soreness, warm sensation, warm to touch, venipuncture site hemorrhage[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Upper respiratory infection (26.9%), cough (11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Rhinorrhea
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Nasal congestion, respiratory congestion, influenza, pharyngitis
Rare (less than 0.1%): Pneumonitis, sinusitis, sneezing, pulmonary congestion, epistaxis, rhinitis, wheezing, bronchitis, respiratory infection, pneumonia, flu-like illness
Frequency not reported: Upper respiratory illness, lower respiratory illness[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Varicella-like rash (generalized), rash, measles/rubella-like rash
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Varicella, viral exanthema, contact dermatitis, diaper rash, erythema, miliaria rubra, pruritus, urticaria
Rare (less than 0.1%): Flushing, vesicle, atopic dermatitis, eczema, acne, herpes simplex, contusion, dermatitis, drug eruption, impetigo, skin infection, measles, sunburn, lump, warmth, discoloration, inflammation, roughness/dryness, hive-like rash, hyperpigmentation
Postmarketing reports: Varicella (vaccine strain), Stevens-Johnson syndrome, erythema multiforme, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, secondary bacterial infections of skin and soft tissue including cellulitis, herpes zoster[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Irritability
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Crying, insomnia, sleep disorder
Rare (less than 0.1%): Apathy, nervousness, agitation, dream abnormality, emotional changes
Frequency not reported: Disturbed sleep[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Gastroenteritis, diarrhea, vomiting
Rare (less than 0.1%): Abdominal pain, nausea, flatulence, hematochezia, mouth ulcer, lip abnormality
Frequency not reported: Constipation, cold/canker sore[Ref]

Nervous system

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Headache, somnolence, fatigue
Rare (less than 0.1%): Febrile seizures, hypersomnia, gait abnormality, tremor
Postmarketing reports: Encephalitis, cerebrovascular accident, transverse myelitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, Bell's palsy, ataxia, non-febrile seizures, aseptic meningitis, dizziness, paresthesia[Ref]


Rare (less than 0.1%): Lymphadenopathy, lymphadenitis, thrombocytopenia
Postmarketing reports: Aplastic anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Allergic reactions (including allergic rash, hives)
Postmarketing reports: Anaphylaxis (including anaphylactic shock) and related phenomena such as angioneurotic edema, facial edema, and peripheral edema; anaphylaxis in individuals with or without an allergic history[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Conjunctivitis
Rare (less than 0.1%): Acute conjunctivitis, tearing, edema of the eyelid, irritation
Frequency not reported: Eye complaints
Postmarketing reports: Necrotizing retinitis (in immunocompromised individuals)[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Anorexia[Ref]


Rare (less than 0.1%): Musculoskeletal pain, myalgia, stiffness, pain of the hip, leg, or neck
Frequency not reported: Chills, stiff neck, arthralgia[Ref]


1. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information." O 0

2. Cerner Multum, Inc. "UK Summary of Product Characteristics." O 0

3. "Product Information. Varivax (varicella virus vaccine live)." Merck & Co, Inc, West Point, PA.

It is possible that some side effects of varicella virus vaccine may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.