About the chickenpox vaccine

Also called the varicella vaccine—since chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus—the vaccine for chickenpox is one of the most common given to children today. Made from a live but weakened, or attenuated, virus, the varicella vaccination helps protect kids and adults from contracting chickenpox for life.

Chickenpox itself is highly contagious and is easily spread from person to person. While it’s generally mild, chickenpox can sometimes cause serious complications like pneumonia (lung infection). In addition, infants, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women can be at increased risk for these types of complications.

A common question from parents to their health care is “Is there a vaccine for chickenpox.” In fact, getting the varicella vaccination is the best and most efficient way to prevent chickenpox. And not only does the chickenpox vaccine protect you against the disease, the community as a whole is less likely to get it.

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about chickenpox.

Where can I get the chickenpox vaccine?

Pharmaca offers a variety of booster shots and immunizations, which can help protect against many common viruses and diseases, such as chickenpox.

Thinking of getting a chickenpox (varicella) vaccination? Contact your local Pharmaca pharmacy to schedule an appointment.

We’ve been offering many immunizations recommended by the CDC for certain health concerns and before travel abroad for many years. We accept most major insurance providers so that your immunizations can be convenient and affordable.

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox (varicella) is a viral infection most often seen in children, but chickenpox still occurs in adults. The virus causes an extremely itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters.

For most people, chickenpox is usually a mild disease that comes and goes in a week or so. Thankfully, the chickenpox, or varicella, vaccine is common, safe and highly effective.

How do I know if I have chickenpox?

The early signs of chickenpox usually appear 10­­–21 days after exposure to the virus. The itchy rash is the hallmark beginning symptom of chickenpox. Other signs and symptoms of chickenpox, which may appear 1­–2 days before the rash, include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Tiredness or malaise

The chickenpox rash then goes through three phases:

  • Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days
  • Small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), forming from the raised bumps over about one day before breaking and leaking
  • Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters and take several more days to heal

New bumps continue to appear for several days, so you may have all three stages of the rash—bumps, blisters and scabbed lesions—occurring at the same time on the second day of the rash.

After infection, people are contagious up to 48 hours before the rash even appears. Once the rash appears, you remain contagious until all spots crust over.

How is chickenpox spread?

Chickenpox transmission happens very easily. It can be contracted by breathing in particles that come from chickenpox blisters or by touching something on which the particles landed.

How long does chickenpox last?

New chickenpox blisters generally stop appearing by seven days into the first signs of the virus, but they can stop as early as day three. In all, chickenpox takes about 10–14 days for all the blisters to be scabbed over. Once the blisters are fully scabbed over, you’re no longer contagious.

When should you get the chickenpox vaccine?                                                       

The varicella vaccine age in which kids should receive the injection is between 12–15 months old. They then should get a booster at 4–6 years of age. Kids who haven’t had chickenpox between the ages of 6­13 can also receive the vaccine.

The varicella vaccine schedule is given in two doses. A child should have the first shot at ages 12­–18 months. The second shot should be given at ages 4­–6 years. Older children and adults should have two shots, with 4–8 weeks between the first and second shot.

What are the side effects of the chickenpox vaccine?

Even though all medicines have potential side effects, most side effects for routine vaccines are generally mild. The varicella vaccine side effects are the same. The most common reactions to the vaccine are pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. A small percentage of people develop a mild rash, usually around the spot where the shot was given. Severe side effects are very rare.

In fact, getting the chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting the disease itself.

Potential varicella vaccine side effects

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 fewer)
  • Mild rash, up to a month after vaccination (1 person out of 25). 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 (very rare).

Severe Problems

  • Pneumonia (very rare)

Can you still get chickenpox after the vaccine?                                                        

Most people who get the chickenpox vaccine will not get chickenpox itself. However, if someone who has been vaccinated does get chickenpox, it’s usually very mild, and they will have fewer blisters, are less likely to get a fever and will most often recover quicker.