Chickenpox Vaccine

Overview & Description

Doctors use the chickenpox vaccine to prevent chickenpoxin children and adults. Vaccines contain weakened or dead forms of the germs that cause certaindiseases. To fight these germs, the body’s immune system creates antibodies. Antibodiesare cells that attack foreign substances in the body. A vaccine causes the body to makesantibodies to the weakened germs in the vaccine. Some of these antibodies will stay in thebody for long periods of time. How long they remain depends on which vaccine a persongets. If the person is later exposed to the disease, the antibodies multiply to fight it off.

Chickenpoxis usually a childhood illness. But it can occur at any age. It is most common in children6 to 12 years old. The illness usually lasts 4 to 5 days and causes mild symptoms.There is a rashwith as many as 250 to 500 itchy bumps, called vesicles. Other symptoms arefatigueand a low-grade fever.

Chicken pox can cause serious, even fatal, complications.People who are at higher risk for these complications include:

  • teens and adults
  • children who are given aspirin
  • infants younger than age 1
  • newborns and premature babies whose mothers had chickenpox when they were born or have not had chickenpox
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • These serious complications include:

  • severe skin infections
  • scarring from the pox
  • pneumonia,which is an infection of the lungs
  • brain damage
  • death
  • The chickenpox vaccine protects against both these complications and thediscomfort of mild symptoms. The vaccine can prevent chickenpox in most cases. Anyonewho gets chickenpox despite receiving the vaccine usually has only a mild case.

    Who is a candidate for the procedure?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as CDC, is the U.S.government agency that makes recommendations about vaccinations. The CDCrecommends that the chickenpox vaccine be given to children age 12 to 18 months , orto older children if they have not had chickenpox. Children under the age of 13 shouldbe given one dose of the vaccine. Children who are at least 13 and have not hadchickenpox should receive two doses of the vaccine. The doses should be given 4 to 8 weeks apart. Many schools,day care centers, and colleges require the vaccine or a report of a history ofchickenpoxbefore enrollment.

    Varicella vaccine is recommended for anyone in certain high-risk groups ifthey have not already had chickenpox. These high-risk groups include:

  • people who live or work where exposure to chickenpox is likely, such as teachersof young children, day care employees, and residents and staff in institutional settings
  • people who live or work where outbreaks of chickenpox can occur, such as collegestudents, prison inmates and staff, and military staff
  • nonpregnant women of childbearing age
  • teens and adults living in households with children, since the children may passchickenpox to them
  • A person in these high-risk groups should talk with his or her doctor aboutwhether he or she should get the chickenpox vaccine. Other people who should consultwith their doctors before receiving the vaccine include:

  • people with weakened immune systems, such as those who haveHIVor canceror who take medicines such as steroids or chemotherapy
  • people who are allergicto gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
  • pregnant women
  • people who are currently ill
  • How is the procedure performed?

    The chickenpox vaccine is given by an injection into the muscle of theupper thigh or arm. This vaccination may be given at the same time as othervaccinations but in a different spot on the body.

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    The site of the chickenpox vaccine injection may sting slightly. A bandageis usually put on it to stop any minor bleeding that may occur.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    The chickenpox vaccine is very safe. Severeallergic reactionsare very rare. But it is important to call a doctor right away to reporthas any new or worsening symptoms.

    What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    Chickenpox itself is far more likely to cause serious problems for people athigh risk than the vaccine is. Possible side effects of the vaccination include:

  • mild rash,up to 1 month after vaccination
  • mild redness, pain, and swelling at the site of the shot for 1 to 2 days
  • rarely, fever,muscle aches,or another reaction at the site of the shot
  • rarely, seizures resulting from the fever
  • very rarely, a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock,pneumonia,brain damage, or even death
  • Article type: xmedgeneral