Chickenpox (varicella)

About the chickenpox vaccine

  • The chickenpox vaccine, also known as varicella, is given in 2 doses that helps protect against chickenpox disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
  • In the Yukon, the 2 chickenpox vaccines used are:
    • Varivax® III; and
    • Priorix-tetra®
  • The chickenpox vaccine is part of the routine Yukon Children’s Immunization Program.

  • The chickenpox vaccine is a 2 dose series, offered when a child is:
    •  1 year of age; and
    • 4 to 6 years of age, before they begin school.
  • Children 4 to 12 years of age who also require protection against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) may receive the combination MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella) vaccine as the second dose of the series.
  • Children who have a history of chickenpox after their first dose do not require a second dose, as they will have developed immunity. If disease history is uncertain, provide a second dose.
  • People 13 years of age or older who have not received the chickenpox vaccine yet, should receive 2 doses of the vaccine 4 weeks apart.
  • Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a common and highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
  • It’s easily spread through the air by an infected person sneezing or coughing, and by direct contact with the fluid from chickenpox blisters or saliva of someone who is infected.
  • The infection causes between 250 and 500 itchy blisters that appear 10 to 15 days after exposure to the virus.
  • Early symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, headache and tiredness. Most children have mild symptoms.
  • Chickenpox infection can be very serious in infants, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals.
  • Complications of chickenpox include pneumonia, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and bacterial infections of the skin from scratching.
  • Encephalitis can lead to deafness, convulsions or brain damage
  • Chickenpox disease stays in your body and can reactivate later in life as painful rash called Shingles disease. Receiving a vaccine against chickenpox helps prevent this.
  • If an unvaccinated woman becomes infected with chickenpox while pregnant, it can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or the baby being born with birth defects.
  • The chickenpox vaccine is the best way to protect against chickenpox and its complications.
  • By preventing chickenpox infection, you are also preventing the potential for Shingles.
  • When you or your child get vaccinated, you help protect the spread to others too.
  • This vaccine is free in the Yukon.
  • Common reactions to the vaccine may include redness, tenderness and swelling at the injection site.
  • Some may develop a fever lasting 1 to 2 days, or a pimple like rash that is not as contagious and heals quickly.
  • Rates of these events are lower following the second dose.
  • Side effects of the vaccine are easily relieved by:
    • applying a cold and damp compress to the site; and
    • taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for temperatures 38.5°C or higher.
  • If a pimple like rash develops, cover the rash and avoid contact with persons at high risk of complications until healed. This includes newborns, elderly and people who are immunocompromised.
  • It’s important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a rare possibility of developing a severe allergic reaction which is treatable at the clinic. This happens to fewer than 1 in 1 million people. If it happens after you leave the clinic, call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • If you or your child experiences any serious or unexpected reactions, contact your physician and report all severe reactions to one of the nurses at your local Health Centre.

Potential allergens of Varivax® III include:

  • hydrolyzed gelatin;
  • fetal bovine serum; and
  • neomycin.

Potential allergens of Priorix-tetra® include neomycin sulphate and egg protein

Find out how to get immunized