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Vaccines to Prevent Chickenpox
Chickenpox vaccine is very effective. Two doses of the vaccine are about 98% effective at preventing chickenpox. Some people who are vaccinated against chickenpox may still get the disease. However, it is usually milder with fewer skin blisters and little or no fever.
Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it. Learn more about possible side effects of chickenpox vaccines.
The second dose may be given at an earlier age if it is given at least three months after the first dose.
MMRV is licensed for use in children 12 months to 12 years old. Your child’s doctor can help you decide which vaccine to use.
However, pregnant women should wait to get the chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting the chickenpox vaccine.
Last reviewed: April 2015
Chickenpox is caused by varicella zoster virus. The main symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters and spreads all over the body. Other typical symptoms that may begin to appear 1 to 2 days before the rash include high fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache.
Chickenpox is very contagious and spreads easily from infected people. It can spread from either a cough or a sneeze. It can also spread by contact with virus particles that come from the blisters on the skin, either by touching them or by breathing in virus particles.
A person with chickenpox is contagious 1 to 2 days before the rash appears until all blisters have formed scabs. It takes from 10 to 21 days after exposure for someone to develop chickenpox.
Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can lead to complications, such as severe skin infection, bone and joint infections, dehydration, pneumonia, brain damage, or death. It is not possible to predict who will have a mild case of chickenpox and who will have a serious or even deadly case of disease.
After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body and can re-activate years later to cause a painful condition called shingles.
Anyone who is not immune from either previous chickenpox virus infection or from vaccination can get chickenpox. Certain groups of people are more likely to have more severe illness with serious complications. These include adults, infants, adolescents, and people whose immune systems have been weakened because of illness or medications.
Chickenpox used to be very common in the United States. About 4 million people would get the disease each year. Also, about 10,600 people were hospitalized and 100 to 150 died each year because of chickenpox.
Thanks to vaccination, serious cases and deaths from chickenpox have declined dramatically. Since the United States started using the vaccine in 1996, the number of hospitalizations decreased by 84% and deaths from chickenpox have gone down more than 90%.