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Chickenpox Can Be Serious

Group of six childrenMost children with chickenpox completely recover. But it can be serious, even deadly, especially for babies, pregnant women, adolescents, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Make sure everyone in your family is up to date on their chickenpox vaccinations.

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease. Someone is at risk if they have never been vaccinated or had chickenpox. Chickenpox causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. This leaves a person feeling very sick and uncomfortable, and may cause sick people to miss a week or more of school or work.

Chickenpox can be serious. Before there was a vaccine, chickenpox caused about 4 million people to get sick, more than 10,500 hospitalizations, and about 100 to 150 deaths each year. Most people who had severe chickenpox were healthy beforehand. Read about a healthy teenager who got chickenpox and died.

First the Rash, Then the Blisters

Classic chickenpox symptoms are—

  • Red, itchy rash that usually starts on the face, chest, and back then spreads to the rest of the body
  • Fluid-filled blisters, resulting from the rash, that crust over usually in one week 

Chickenpox Vaccine: Your Best Protection

Chickenpox vaccine is the best way to protect your family from chickenpox. 

CDC recommends:

  • Children get the first dose of chickenpox vaccine at 12 through 15 months old and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years.
  • People 13 years of age and older who never had chickenpox or been vaccinated should get two doses of chickenpox vaccine at least 28 days apart.

If you or your child only got one dose in the past, check with your doctor about getting a second dose.

Chickenpox Can Be Serious

Chickenpox can be serious especially for babies, pregnant women, adolescents, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. It can cause—

  • dehydration
  • pneumonia
  • bleeding problems
  • brain infection or inflammation
  • bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
  • blood stream infections (sepsis)
  • toxic shock syndrome
  • bone infections
  • joint infections
  • death

Chickenpox vaccine is safer than getting Chickenpox

Two doses of chickenpox vaccine are very effective at preventing disease, including severe disease, complications, and death. Although rare, you can get chickenpox if you have been vaccinated. However, the symptoms are usually very mild, meaning fewer blisters, little or no fever, and quicker recovery.

Also, when you get vaccinated, you protect others in your community. This is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated. People who cannot get the chickenpox vaccine include pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. Learn more about who should not get chickenpox vaccine.

Paying for Chickenpox Vaccine

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. However, you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. Learn how to pay for vaccines.

If you don't have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To learn more, visit the state VFC coordinator.

If you have any questions about chickenpox or the vaccine, talk with your doctor.