- Parents Home
- Allergy Center
- Asthma Center
- Cancer Center
- Diabetes Center
- A to Z
- Emotions & Behavior
- First Aid & Safety
- Food Allergy Center
- General Health
- Growth & Development
- Flu Center
- Heart Health
- Helping With Homework
- Diseases & Conditions
- Nutrition & Fitness Center
- Play & Learn Center
- School & Family Life
- Pregnancy & Newborn Center
- Sports Medicine Center
- Doctors & Hospitals
- Para Padres
- Kids Home
- Asthma Center for Kids
- Cancer Center for Kids
- Movies & More
- Diabetes Center for Kids
- Getting Help
- Puberty & Growing Up
- Health Problems of Grown-Ups
- Health Problems
- Homework Center
- How the Body Works
- Illnesses & Injuries
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Kids
- Recipes & Cooking for Kids
- Staying Healthy
- Stay Safe Center
- Relax & Unwind Center
- Q&A for Kids
- The Heart
- Videos for Kids
- Staying Safe
- Kids' Medical Dictionary
- Para Niños
- Teens Home
- Asthma Center for Teens
- Be Your Best Self
- Cancer Center for Teens
- Diabetes Center for Teens
- Diseases & Conditions (for Teens)
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Expert Answers (Q&A)
- Flu Center for Teens
- Homework Help for Teens
- Infections (for Teens)
- Managing Your Medical Care
- Managing Your Weight
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Teens
- Recipes for Teens
- Safety & First Aid
- School & Work
- Sexual Health
- Sports Center
- Stress & Coping Center
- Videos for Teens
- Para Adolescentes
Your Child's Immunizations: Chickenpox Vaccine
The varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox (varicella), a common and very contagious childhood viral illness. It also protects against shingles. It is a live attenuated vaccine, which means it contains a weakened form of the virus.
Chickenpox Immunization Schedule
The varicella vaccine is given as a shot when kids are between 12 and 15 months old. They get a booster shot for further protection at 4 to 6 years of age.
Kids who are older than 6 but younger than 13 who have not had chickenpox or the vaccine should get the 2 doses given 3 months apart. Kids 13 years or older should get their 2 vaccine doses 1 to 2 months apart.
Sometimes the varicella vaccine is given in combination with the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, in a vaccine called MMRV. Kids up to 13 years old can get this vaccine.
Why Is the Chickenpox Vaccine Recommended?
Chickenpox used to be common in the US, causing many hospitalizations and even deaths. Since the vaccine was introduced in 1995, it has prevented millions of infections every year. It prevents severe illness in almost all kids who are vaccinated. It's also very effective in preventing mild illness. Vaccinated kids who do get chickenpox generally have a mild case.
If a person with no immunity to the virus is exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles, they are likely to get infected because the virus is so contagious. Giving the vaccine within 3 to 5 days after exposure can help to prevent the infection.
Possible Risks of Chickenpox Immunization
Possible mild effects are tenderness and redness where the shot was given, fever, tiredness, and a varicella-like illness. There is a very small chance of an allergic reaction with any vaccine.
A rash can happen up to 1 month after the injection. It may last for several days but will disappear on its own without treatment. There is a very small risk of febrile seizures after vaccination with MMRV.
When to Delay or Avoid Chickenpox Immunization
The varicella vaccine is not recommended if your child:
- had a serious allergic reaction to an earlier dose of varicella vaccine or its components, which include gelatin and the antibiotic neomycin
- has a disorder that affects the immune system (such as cancer)
- is taking steroids or other medicine that weakens the immune system
- is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy
Talk to your doctor about whether the vaccine is a good idea if your child:
- is currently sick. Generally, simple colds and other minor illness should not stop your child from getting a vaccine.
- takes aspirin. People who take aspirin should stop for 6 weeks when getting the chickenpox vaccine.
- has gotten any other vaccines in the past month, or blood products in the past few months (such as from a transfusion), because some can affect how well the chickenpox vaccine will work
- has ever had a low platelet count
Your doctor may decide that the benefits of vaccinating your child outweigh the potential risks.
Pregnant women should not get the chickenpox vaccine until after they give birth.
Caring for Your Child After Chickenpox Immunization
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call your doctor if:
- You aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
- There are problems after the immunization.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- The Nemours Foundation. KidsHealth® is a registered trademark of The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Images sourced by The Nemours Foundation and Getty Images.