FAQ: Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine
This document has been prepared for educational purposes by Karen
Green, RN CIC. Should you have any questions regarding individual
health concerns or health care practices, please consult your
physician or health care provider directly.
» Why should I get my
child vaccinated against chickenpox?
- Chickenpox (varicella) is a very common
and contagious childhood disease. The virus usually causes mild
infections in children, but can cause more severe disease in
adults. Occasionally, even in healthy children, chickenpox can
lead to severe skin infections, pneumonia, brain damage or death.
- The virus that causes chickenpox is spread from
person to person through the air or by direct contact with the
fluid from chickenpox blisters.
- Chickenpox causes an itchy rash which may begin
as smooth, red spots which develop into blisters. It is often
accompanied by fever and tiredness.
- Years after having had chickenpox, people can develop
a painful rash called shingles.
- Chickenpox vaccine can prevent chickenpox.
» Can you still get chickenpox
after being vaccinated?
- Most people who get chickenpox vaccine will not
- However, because chickenpox vaccine is made from
a live, but weakened form of the chickenpox virus, there is
a small risk of getting chickenpox after the vaccine.
- If someone who has been vaccinated does get chickenpox,
it is usually very mild, much milder than if they had been infected
through natural exposure to the chickenpox virus.
- They usually have fewer spots, are less likely to
have fever and recover more quickly.
» Who should get chickenpox
- All children from 12 to 18 months of age, and children
18 months to 12 years of age who have never had chickenpox should
receive one dose of vaccine.
- Children over the age of 13 or adults who have not
had chickenpox or not been vaccinated require 2 doses of chickenpox
vaccine, 4-8 weeks apart.
- Any non-immune health care workers or other adults
who work with children or immunocompromised individuals.
» Who should NOT get
- Anyone with a life-threatening allergy to gelatin,
neomycin or a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine.
- People with any active infection with fever.
- Pregnant women. Women should not get pregnant for
3 months following vaccination.
- People with the following conditions should
check with their doctor about whether or not they should have
- HIV/AIDS or other diseases affecting the immune
- on treatment with drugs that affect the immune
- lymphoma, leukemia, blood dyscrasias, or any
kind of cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system
- active untreated tuberculosis
» Are there any side
effects to the vaccine?
- Most people who get chickenpox vaccine have no side
effects. In those who do, the most common side effects are pain,
redness or swelling at the injection site.
- Rarely, vaccines like other medication can cause
severe allergic reactions. The risk of chickenpox causing serious
harm or death is extremely small. There are fewer risks associated
with the chickenpox vaccine that there are with getting chickenpox.
- If after vaccination, any of the following occur,
contact or visit your doctor left away:
- serious allergic reaction within a few minutes to a few
hours (difficulty breathing, horseness, wheezing, hives,
paleness, weakness, fast heart beat, dizziness)
- high fevers, changes in regular behavior, or seizures.
» Where can I get the
- Chickenpox vaccine has recently been licensed for
use in Canada.
- If you are considering vaccination for yourself
or your child, discuss vaccine options with your family physician
This website has been made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from
Pfizer Canada Inc.