Chickenpox Vaccine: What Parents Need to Know


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Why Get Vaccinated?

Chickenpox (also called Varicella) is a common childhood disease. It is usually mild, but it can be serious, especially in young infants and adults.

  • The chickenpox virus can be spread from person to person through the air, or by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters.
  • It causes a rash, itching, fever, and tiredness.
  • It can lead to severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage, or death.
  • A person who has had chickenpox can get a painful rash called shingles years later.
  • About 12,000 people are hospitalized for chickenpox each year in the United States.
  • About 100 people die each year in the United States as a result of chickenpox.

Chickenpox vaccine can prevent chickenpox. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine will not get chickenpox. But if someone who has been vaccinated does get chickenpox, it is usually very mild. They will have fewer spots, are less likely to have a fever, and will recover faster.

Ask your doctor or nurse for more information. People who do not get the vaccine until 13 years of age or older should get 2 doses, 4-8 weeks apart. Ask your doctor or nurse for details. Chickenpox vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

Children should get 1 dose of chickenpox vaccine between 12 and 18 months of age, or at any age after that if they have never had chickenpox.

Who Should Not Get the Chicken Pox Vaccine?

  • People should not get chickenpox vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or (for those needing a second dose) a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine.
  • People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • Pregnant women should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get chickenpox vaccine, including anyone who:
    • Has HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer
    • Has any kind of cancer
    • Is taking cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
    • People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they may get chickenpox vaccine.

What Will I Need to do Before My Child Can Receive the Chickenpox Vaccine?

On the day of your child's appointment, you will be asked to read information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding this vaccination.

  • To review the Vaccine Information Statement prior to your appointment, click here.
  • To view a full listing of the Vaccine Information Statements available through the CDC, click here.

What are the Risks from Chickenpox Vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of chickenpox vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it.

Mild Problems

  • Soreness or swelling where the shot was given (about 1 out of 5 children and up to 1 out of 3 adolescents and adults)
  • Fever (1 person out of 10, or less)
  • Mild rash, up to a month after vaccination (1 person out of 20, or less). It is possible for these people to infect other members of their household, but this is extremely rare.

Moderate Problems

  • Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (less than 1 person out of 1,000).

Severe Problems

  • Pneumonia (very rare)
  • Other serious problems, including severe brain reactions and low blood count, have been reported
    after chickenpox vaccination. These happen so rarely experts cannot tell whether they are caused by the
    vaccine or not. If they are, it is extremely rare.

What should I look for?

Any unusual condition, such as a serious allergic reaction, high fever or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. A high fever or seizure, if it occurs, would happen 1 to 6 weeks after the shot.

What should I do?

  • Call a doctor, or get the person to a doctor right away.
  • Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse, or health department to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form, or call VAERS yourself at 1-800-822-7967.

In the rare event that you or your child has a serious reaction to a vaccine, a federal program has been created to help you pay for the care of those who have been harmed. For details about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, call 1-800-338-2382 or visit the program’s website at http://www.hrsa.gov/bhpr/vicp/.

Ask your doctor or nurse. They can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information. Call your local or state health department’s immunization program. Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Call  1-800-232-2522  (English) Call  1-800-232-0233 (Español)

This Vaccine Information Statement courtesy of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, and the National Immunization Program.

Click here for more information on Chickenpox

 

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