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Varicella Vaccine: Is Your Child the Right Age for the Chickenpox Vaccine

Varicella Vaccine: Is Your Child the Right Age for the Chickenpox Vaccine?

Varicella Vaccine: Is Your Child the Right Age for the Chickenpox Vaccine?


The varicella vaccine, also known as the chickenpox vaccine, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995. It protects against one of the most common viruses children face—the chickenpox virus, or varicella zoster virus (VZV). It’s very contagious and can be spread through close contact with an infected person by coughing or sneezing, touching the infected person’s skin lesions, or sharing items like towels or clothing with the infected person.

Why do I need to vaccinate my child against varicella?

The chickenpox vaccine is recommended for all children over 12 months old. The CDC recommends two doses of varicella vaccine, which can be administered at any time as long as there is a minimum of four weeks between each dose. For most healthy children, a single dose of chickenpox vaccine is recommended to prevent infection; however, if you would like your child to be protected against severe cases of chickenpox, they should receive two doses.

When should I get my child vaccinated with varicella vaccine?

Your child should receive two doses of varicella vaccine to protect against chickenpox. The first dose should be given when he or she is 12-15 months old, and a second dose should be given four weeks later. If your child has already had chickenpox, ask your pediatrician about getting an additional booster shot to ensure long-term protection.

Where can I go for more information about the varicella vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a wealth of information on varicella, including recommendations on when you should get vaccinated if you’re exposed to someone with chickenpox. The site also features an overview of side effects, precautions, and adverse reactions associated with varicella vaccination. For more info, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/varicella/default.htm#9. You can also find details about varicella vaccine administration at your doctor's office or local health department. Some doctors may even have handouts that provide additional information about getting vaccinated against chickenpox. However, be sure to check in advance to make sure they are up-to-date with current recommendations from CDC and ACIP before you leave home. You can also ask your doctor whether there is a local or state health department in your area that can answer any questions you might have about varicella vaccination or other vaccinations required by school entry requirements or child care programs. To find out what shots are required by law in your state, contact your local Department of Health or call CDC at 1-800-232-4636 . Most importantly—don't delay!

What are some common questions about the varicella vaccine?

As your child’s birthday approaches, you may be wondering whether he or she is old enough to get a chickenpox vaccine. But there are other questions that may also be on your mind. What should I know about Varivax, Merck & Co.’s version of the varicella vaccine? How does it differ from Priorix-Tetra and ProQuad, two competing products manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co., respectively?

Who should NOT get varicella vaccine?

While chickenpox is typically considered a childhood disease, adults can get it as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends varicella vaccine to all healthy individuals between 1 and 50 years of age who are not immune to chickenpox. Individuals with a moderate or severe illness should usually wait until they recover before getting vaccinated. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not get varicella vaccine unless there is a serious risk of exposure to chickenpox virus.

What if my insurance doesn't cover this vaccine, how much will it cost me out of pocket?

The cost of a chickenpox vaccine is approximately $150.00 per dose if you don't have insurance. That price may vary depending on your location, time of year and insurance provider so it’s always a good idea to call around. However, even with insurance there will still be an out-of-pocket cost for you or your child to receive Varicella immunization.

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