Vaccine (Shot) for Chickenpox

chickenpox (Varicella)

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

When should my child get the chickenpox shot?

One dose at each of the following ages:

Older children or adolescents should also get two doses of the chickenpox if they have never received a chickenpox shot or never had chickenpox. They should also get a second shot if they have had only one chickenpox shot.

Why should my child get the 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).

The chickenpox shot is safe.

The chickenpox shot is safe, and it is effective at protecting against chickenpox. Vaccines, like a 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

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 spreads 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 about a week. In some cases, chickenpox can cause serious problems.

Some people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease, called breakthrough chickenpox. However, they usually have milder symptoms with fewer or no blisters (or just red spots), a mild or no fever, and are sick for a shorter period of time than people who are not vaccinated.

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)
  • Rarely, chickenpox may lead to death
Chickenpox illustration

Chickenpox can be serious

Complications from chickenpox can be serious and can occur in any person who develops chickenpox, although they are more common 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 Infographic

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 from people with chickenpox to others who have never had the disease or never been vaccinated. Chickenpox can also spread from people with shingles.

The disease spreads mainly through close contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles. For example, it can spread when a person touches or breathes in the virus particles that come from the blisters when they get scratched.

Chickenpox can spread 1 to 2 days before the infected person gets a rash, and then doesn’t stop spreading until all the blisters have formed scabs. Vaccinated people who get chickenpox may develop lesions that do not form scabs. These people are considered contagious until no new lesions have appeared for 24 hours.

Chickenpox is very contagious. If one person has it, about 9 out of 10 people close to that person who are not protected against chickenpox will also become infected.

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, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children receive all vaccines according to the recommended vaccine schedule.

Page last reviewed: August 31, 2022