Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine


Chickenpox is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It results in a rash of small red bumps that form all over the body. Chickenpox spreads easily between people. It can be very serious. But this disease can be prevented with the chickenpox vaccine.

How it Works

The vaccine is made from a weakened strain of the live virus. When it is injected, the body creates antibodies to fight the virus. Even after the virus is defeated, this protection remains. Most vaccinated people will be immune to chickenpox for the rest of their lives. A very small number of vaccinated people will get chickenpox. But they usually get a very mild case of the disease.

Vaccine for Young Children

The chickenpox vaccine is recommended for children, teens and adults who have not had the vaccine or chickenpox. For young children, the vaccine is given as two shots. The first dose is given when a child is 12-15 months old. The second dose is given between the ages of 4 and 6. The chickenpox vaccine may be given in a "combination" vaccine called MMRV. It also protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Vaccine for Teens and Adults

For children 13 and older, the chickenpox vaccine is given separately from the MMR vaccine. Two shots are needed, and they are given at least 28 days apart. Adults may receive one or two doses based on their needs.

Who Should Avoid, Postpone Vaccination

If you have had chickenpox, you do not need the vaccine. This is because your body has naturally developed an immunity to the virus. The vaccine should not be taken by people who are allergic to gelatin. Pregnant women and people who are sick should wait to get the vaccine. And people who have immune system diseases or who are being treated for cancer should talk to a doctor to see if the vaccine is safe for them.