Vaccine (Shot) for Chickenpox

chickenpox (Varicella)

Varicella pronounced [vare-uh-SELL-uh]  Listen media icon[MP3]

Two doses of the chickenpox shot are recommended by doctors as the best way to protect against chickenpox (varicella).

When should my child get the shot?

Your child will need one dose at each of the following ages:

Why should my child get a chickenpox shot?

  • Protects your child from chickenpox (varicella), a potentially serious and even deadly disease.
  • Keeps your child from missing up to one week of school or child care (and keeps you from missing work to care for your sick child).
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The chickenpox shot is safe.

The chickenpox shot is very safe, and it is effective at protecting against chickenpox. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.

What are the side effects?

Most children don’t have any side effects from the shot. The side effects that do occur are usually mild, and may include:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Mild rash
  • Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints
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Prepare for your child's vaccine visit and learn about how you can:

  • Research vaccines and ready your child before the visit
  • Comfort your child during the appointment
  • Care for your child after the shot
Before, During, and After Shots

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a disease that causes an itchy rash of blisters and a fever. A person with chickenpox may have as many as 500 blisters. The rash can spread over the whole body. Chickenpox can be serious, even life-threatening, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

What are the symptoms of chickenpox?

Chickenpox usually causes the following symptoms:

  • An itchy rash of blisters
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired

Symptoms usually last 7 to 10 days. In some cases, chickenpox can cause serious problems.

Is chickenpox serious?

Chickenpox is usually mild in children, but the itching can be very uncomfortable. Children who get chickenpox can miss about a week of school or child care.

In some cases, chickenpox can cause serious problems, such as:

  • Skin infections
  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids)
  • Pneumonia (an infection in the lungs)
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
Chickenpox illustration

Chickenpox can be serious

Chickenpox can be serious in healthy babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. About 9 out of 10 children who get 2 doses of the vaccine will be completely protected from chickenpox.

Chickenpox Infographicimage icon

Before the vaccine was available, about 4 million people got chickenpox each year in the United States, over 10,500 of those people were hospitalized, and about 100-150 people died.

How does chickenpox spread?

Chickenpox spreads easily, mainly when a person touches or breathes in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters. It can also spread through tiny droplets that get into the air when someone who has chickenpox breathes or talks, for example. Chickenpox can spread 1 to 2 days before the infected person gets a rash until all the blisters have formed scabs.

Why not let my child get chickenpox naturally?

Chickenpox is a mild disease for many children, but not all. There’s no way to know who will have a serious case. When your child gets the chickenpox shots, he or she is getting immunity from chickenpox without the risk of serious complications of the disease.

Follow the vaccine schedule

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children receive all vaccines according to the recommended vaccine schedule.

Page last reviewed: August 2, 2019