What Is Chickenpox (Varicella)? The varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox (varicella), a common and very contagious childhood viral illness. 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 also may get the vaccine, with the 2 doses given 3 months apart. Kids 13 years or older who have not had either chickenpox or the vaccine need 2 vaccine doses 1 to 2 months apart. Sometimes the chickenpox 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? The chickenpox vaccine prevents severe illness in almost all kids who get it. It's up to 85% effective in preventing mild illness. Vaccinated kids who do get chickenpox generally have a mild case. 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. 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 recently got gamma globulin or a blood transfusion 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 before getting the chickenpox vaccine. has gotten any other vaccines in the past month 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 Check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever and to find out the right dose. 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 Back to Articles Related Articles Word! Varicella Zoster This is the medical name for the virus that causes chicken pox, which is known for its red, itchy bumps. Read More What Makes Chickenpox Itch? Chickenpox can make you itch like crazy. Find out why in this article for kids. Read More First Aid: Chickenpox Chickenpox (varicella) has become less common in the U.S. due to the chickenpox vaccine, but it can easily spread from one person to another. Read More A Kid's Guide to Shots If you're old enough to read this, you've probably had most of your shots. But even bigger kids may need a shot once in a while. Find out more about them in this article for kids. Read More Immunizations Missing out on shots puts you at more serious risk than you might think. That one little "ouch" moment protects you from some major health problems. Read More Shingles Shingles isn't very common in kids - it mostly affects older people. Find out what causes shingles, symptoms to watch for, and what to do if your child has it. Read More Chickenpox Chickenpox used to be common in kids, causing a very itchy red rash all over the body. But the good news is that a vaccine can prevent most cases. Read More Chickenpox Chickenpox is a virus that causes red, itchy bumps. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Immunization Schedule Which vaccines does your child need and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference. Read More Your Child's Immunizations Immunizations protect kids from many dangerous diseases. Find out what vaccines your child needs to grow up healthy. Read More How Vaccines Help (Video) Vaccines help keep kids healthy, but many parents still have questions about them. Get answers here. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.