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Chickenpox Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

One of the Recommended Vaccines by Disease

At a Glance

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. Chickenpox used to be very common in the United States.

CDC recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine for children, adolescents, and adults. Children should receive two doses of the vaccine—the first dose at 12 through 15 months old and a second dose at 4 through 6 years old.

Who Needs Chickenpox Vaccine

Children under age 13 years should get two doses

  • First dose at age 12 through 15 months
  • Second dose at age 4 through 6 years

The second dose may be given at an earlier age if it is given at least 3 months after the first dose.

People 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox or received chickenpox vaccine should get two doses, at least 28 days apart.

Chickenpox vaccination is especially important for—

  • Healthcare professionals
  • People who care for or are around others with weakened immune systems
  • Teachers
  • Child care workers
  • Residents and staff in nursing homes and residential settings
  • College students
  • Inmates and staff of correctional institutions
  • Military personnel
  • Non-pregnant women of child-bearing age
  • Adolescents and adults living with children
  • International travelers

To check if you are protected from chickenpox, see Immunity (Protection) Against Chickenpox.

Some people with weakened immune systems who do not have immunity against chickenpox may be considered for vaccination after talking with their doctor, including people—

  • with HIV-infection
  • with cancer, but whose disease is in remission
  • on low or high-dose steroids

For more information on vaccination of people with weakened immune systems, see Vaccination Recommendations for Specific Populations.

Also, see Getting Vaccinated After You Are Exposed to Chickenpox.

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Who Should Not Get Chickenpox Vaccine

You do not need to get the chickenpox vaccine if you have evidence of immunity against the disease.

Some people should not get chickenpox vaccine or they should wait.

  • People should not get chickenpox vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or any component of the vaccine, including gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • Pregnant women should not get chickenpox vaccine. They should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting chickenpox vaccine.
  • People with the following conditions should check with their doctor about whether they should get chickenpox vaccine, including anyone who:
    • Has HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer
    • Has any kind of cancer
    • Is getting cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
  • People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they may get chickenpox vaccine.

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Types of Chickenpox Vaccine

There are two chickenpox vaccines that are licensed in the United States—Varivax® and ProQuad®.

Varivax®

  • Contains only chickenpox vaccine
  • Licensed for use in children 12 months and older, adolescents, and adults
  • Can be given to children for their routine two doses of chickenpox vaccine at 12 through 15 months old and 4 through 6 years old

ProQuad®

  • Contains a combination of measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox) vaccines, which is also called MMRV
  • Only licensed for use in children 12 months through 12 years old
  • Can be given to children for their routine two doses of chickenpox vaccine at 12 through 15 months old and 4 through 6 years old
  • Children who get the first dose of this vaccine at 12 to 23 months old may have a higher chance of a seizure caused by fever. This is in comparison to children who get the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the chickenpox vaccine separately during a doctor visit. But, these seizures are not common. They may be scary for parents, but they are not harmful to children. Talk with a doctor if you have questions.

For more information, see

For package inserts, see Varivax® and ProQuad®.

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Getting Vaccinated After You Are Exposed to Chickenpox

If you do not have immunity against chickenpox and are exposed to someone with this disease or shingles, talk with your doctor about getting chickenpox vaccine.

You should get chickenpox vaccine within 3 to 5 days of being exposed.

You need two doses of vaccine at two different times. For more information, see Who Needs Chickenpox Vaccine.

If you previously got one dose of chickenpox vaccine, you should get a second dose.

Getting vaccinated after you are exposed to someone with chickenpox can—

  • prevent the disease or make it less serious
  • protect you from chickenpox if you are exposed again in the future

A doctor can prescribe a medicine to make chickenpox less severe. This is especially important for people who are exposed to chickenpox and do not have immunity against the disease and are not eligible for vaccination.

For more information, see Managing Persons at Risk for Severe Chickenpox (Varicella).

Also, see information about Who Should Not Get Chickenpox Vaccine.

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Childcare and School Chickenpox Vaccine Requirements

All 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have state laws that require children entering childcare or public schools to have certain vaccinations. There is no federal law that requires this.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all states require children entering childcare and students starting school, college, and other postsecondary educational institutions have—

  • age-appropriate chickenpox vaccination
    • preschool-age children (age 12 months through 3 years): 1 dose
    • school-age children, adolescents, adults: 2 doses or
  • other evidence of immunity against chickenpox.

Students in school settings have a higher chance of spreading chickenpox because they are constantly in close contact with each other.

Chickenpox vaccine prevents the disease and outbreaks in childcare settings and schools. This leads to

  • less illness and less school time missed by students, and
  • less chance of exposing people who cannot get vaccinated.

For the 2011 to 2012 school year, 36 states and District of Columbia require children to receive two doses of chickenpox vaccine or have other evidence of immunity against chickenpox before starting school.

For more information, see State Vaccination Requirements.

How can Parents Pay 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. 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 find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child’s doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.

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