The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is recommended for children in a two-dose series with the first dose occurring at 12-15 months and the second dose at 4-6 years. Adults and adolescents aged 7 years and older who do not have evidence of varicella immunity should receive two doses in order to achieve a maximal immune response.
Ob-gyns can use state immunization registries to ascertain status of varicella and other vaccines. (click here for information on State Immunization Registries)
For children aged 7 through 12 years, the recommended minimum interval between doses is 3 months (if the second dose was administered at least 4 weeks after the first dose, it can be accepted as valid); for persons aged 13 years and older, the minimum interval between doses is 4 weeks.
There is only one varicella vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for individuals over the age of 12 months. This vaccine is a live-attenuated viral vaccine. It should not be administered to pregnant women or women who desire to become pregnant within 1 month.
The varicella vaccine should not be given to individuals who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine, to gelatin, or to the antibiotic neomycin; individuals who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled; and pregnant women or women planning on becoming pregnant within a month.
People should check with their doctor about whether they should get the varicella vaccine, including individuals who have HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system; who are being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer; who have any kind of cancer; or who are receiving cancer treatment with radiation or drugs.
People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they should receive the varicella vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed the varicella vaccine for use in 1995. It is a single-antigen vaccine that protects only against chickenpox. Many studies were done before the vaccine was licensed that showed Varivax is safe. Also, millions of people in the United States have gotten the vaccine safely. During 1995 through 2011, over 120 million doses of Varivax were distributed in the U.S. Learn about a combination vaccine called ProQuad that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).
As with all licensed vaccines, CDC and FDA continue to closely monitor the safety of the chickenpox vaccine. Any problems that are detected will be reported to health officials, healthcare providers, and the public, and actions will be taken to ensure the public’s health and safety.
For more information regarding varicella vaccine safety visit the CDC's webpage Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine Safety