How to Get Immunized Against Chicken Pox

Three Parts:Getting Ready for ImmunizationGetting ImmunizedFollowing Up on Your Immunization

If you are concerned about you or your children contracting the chickenpox virus (varicella), talk to your doctor about getting immunized. Getting immunized against the varicella virus can prevent chickenpox or reduce the symptoms if you or your child catch it. Adults who never had chickenpox may consider getting vaccinated, since the older a person gets, the more risks of a severe infection and complications arise. Talk to your doctor about possible allergies and side effects related to the immunization, and schedule an appointment as soon as possible to keep your family free of chickenpox.

Part 1
Getting Ready for Immunization

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    Identify who should get the chickenpox vaccine.[1] All healthy children that are more than one year old qualify for the vaccine. Adults who work with children, health care providers, and people who live with an immunocompromised person should also get the vaccine, as well as any adults who have never had chickenpox. People who travel internationally, especially to those countries that do not vaccinate against the varicella virus, should be vaccinated.[2]
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    Know who should not get the vaccine. If you or your child is more than mildly ill, do not get the vaccine. People who cannot fight infections, such as those with cancer or HIV, should not get the chickenpox immunization. Also, people who have allergic reactions to vaccine components or who have a congenital hereditary immunodeficiency should not get the chickenpox vaccine. Finally, if you are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant, you should not receive the vaccine, since it could have a negative impact on fetal development.[3]
    • Common vaccine ingredients that could produce an allergic reaction include gelatin, eggs, and yeast — though people with egg allergies may still be able to be vaccinated (talk to your doctor). People who are allergic to the antibiotic neomycin should not get vaccine. Latex allergies might also make getting immunized difficult since latex is a component of the syringe used to administer the vaccine.[4]
    • People who are taking steroids or other medications that affect the immune system for longer than two weeks should not get the vaccine.
    • Your doctor will tell you if you or your child are able to receive the chickenpox vaccine.
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    Choose the type of vaccine you need. There are two vaccines available to immunize against chickenpox. One immunizes against chickenpox alone, and is appropriate for anyone over twelve months old. The other vaccine (MMRV) immunizes against measles, mumps, and rubella in addition to immunizing against chickenpox. This vaccine, however, can only be used by individuals between one and twelve years old.[5]
    • Choose the right vaccination for your child. If your child has already been fully immunized against measles, mumps, and rubella, you will not need the combination vaccine.
    • Consult your doctor about which vaccine your child should receive. The doctor will use the child’s medical history to develop an appropriate vaccination schedule.
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    Contact your insurance company. Ask your insurance provider if chickenpox immunization is covered. If your insurance doesn't cover the vaccine, there are many options available for free or discounted vaccinations. Check with your local health department to determine if and when they offer immunizations.
    • The Vaccines for Children program offers free vaccinations to individuals 18 and under who are eligible for Medicaid, Native Americans, or who do not have health insurance.[6] Talk to a pediatrician if you believe your child qualifies.
    • Public health clinics, religious centers like mosques and churches, and schools and universities often offer common vaccinations (including chickenpox immunization) at little or no cost.
    • If none of these options are readily available, visit to investigate your options for enrolling in health insurance through the public Marketplace website.[7]
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    Schedule an appointment. Contact a vaccination clinic near you. Whether you visit a university health center, a doctor, or another venue to receive your vaccination, you can only get the chickenpox vaccine from a licensed medical practitioner.
    • Check for a database of vaccination providers near you.
    • Your doctor might recommend your child see a pediatrician to get vaccinated.

Part 2
Getting Immunized

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    Get your child’s first dose of shots. If your child is under 13 years old, she will require two doses of the chickenpox vaccine.[8] The first dose should be administered when the child is between 12 and 15 months old, but can be given at any time after 12 months old.
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    Get your child’s second dose of shots. The second dose of shots should be administered at least three months after the first dose; however, ensure your child receives the second dose before turning six years old if possible.
    • If your child is at least 13 years old, he can receive his second dose 28 days after his first dose.[9]
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    Get catch-up vaccines.[10] If you are an adult and have not had chickenpox, you should still get vaccinated. You might need only one dose, rather than the more traditional two doses. Talk to your doctor about when and how you can get immunized for more information.

Part 3
Following Up on Your Immunization

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    Watch for side effects. Common side effects include fever or fatigue. You may notice a rash up to one month after the chickenpox vaccine is administered, and may experience soreness or swelling on the site where you received the vaccine shot. More serious, but very rare side effects include shock, thrombocytopenia (blood disorder), seizures, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), Guillain-Barré syndrome, and infection with chickenpox.
    • Additional serious (but still rare) side effects from the chickenpox vaccine include seizures, pneumonia, loss of balance, and severe allergic reactions.[11]
    • People who have received the chickenpox immunization may get a mild form of the virus and can still spread the disease to those who are not protected, but this too is rare.[12]
    • A high fever, behavioral changes, or an allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face or throat, arrhythmia, or dizziness) should be reported to your doctor immediately. If the reaction is severe or the person experiences difficulty breathing, call 911 for emergency services.[13]
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    Report any side effects you or your child encounter. There are two programs that you can take advantage of if you or your child experiences adverse effects due to your immunization. The first is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Their site, will let you submit information to a national database to help health professionals track negative side effects and minimize them in the future.
    • The second is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The NVICP allows you to file a petition with the agency and potentially receive financial recompense if you believe you or your child were harmed by a vaccine.[14] Visit their site at for more info.
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    Check for evidence of immunity against the varicella virus. Once you’ve been vaccinated against chickenpox, or been infected with the virus, you will develop an immunity. Your doctor may recommend testing if you have problems with your immune system, or if you are unsure if you have had chickenpox or the vaccine. This can be done by having a blood test to determine if you have varicella antibodies.
    • If you’re unsure about your medical history and want to know if you have an immunity to varicella, ask a family member who might know like your mother or father.
    • You could also check your personal medical records for evidence of either a chickenpox vaccination or treatment.
    • Immunization for shingles (herpes zoster) could also constitute evidence of immunity to chickenpox.[15]


  • If you’re thinking of getting vaccinated as an adult and are unsure if you’ve been vaccinated in the past, getting re-vaccinated will not harm you.[16] Or, you may want to have a blood test to see if you are already immunized.


  • Do not get the chickenpox immunization while pregnant or breastfeeding.

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