Updated January 2016

Vaccine Protection

Chickenpox vaccine is part of routine childhood immunization. Vaccine efficacy in children is estimated to be 94% after one dose and 98% after a second dose. Two doses of chickenpox vaccine protects most individuals or reduces the severity of the disease.

Vaccine Brands: Varilrix®, VarivaxIII®

Recommendations for Use

Varicella vaccine is recommended for healthy children ages 12 months to 12 years of age. In Ontario, routine childhood immunization for chickenpox is at 15 months and 4-6 years of age. Children born on or after January 1, 2010 need to show proof of immunization against chickenpox to attend school.

Adults 18 to 49 years of age who have never had the chickenpox should get two doses of the vaccine, although it is only publicly-funded for persons with certain risk factors. Chickenpox can be severe in adults.

Vaccine Side Effects and Risks

Redness, soreness and swelling where the needle was given are common. Fever is less common and sometimes, a mild chickenpox-like rash can occur 5 to 26 days after getting the vaccine. If this occurs, the person with the rash should stay home until the blisters are dried out with scabs, there are no more blisters and there are no new spots or bumps forming. It is important to avoid persons who may be at high risk for severe disease, including pregnant women, newborns, patients in hospital or out-patient settings, and persons who are immunocompromised (including transplant recipients or HIV infection). The rash should be kept covered and gets better on its own.

Salicylates (such as aspirin) should not be given to a person for at least 6 weeks after varicella vaccine vaccination due to the association between aspirin, varicella, and Reye’s Syndrome, a disease of the liver and brain.

Serious allergic reactions are rare and may include trouble breathing, wheezing, hives and rash.  Report any side effects or severe vaccine reactions to your health care provider.

Do Not Get the Vaccine, If You Have:

  • a severe allergy or neurological reaction to a previous dose of a vaccine containing varicella. Signs of severe allergy include hives, swelling of the mouth and throat, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, hypotension and shock.
  • allergy to any vaccine parts, including: neomycin suphate or porcine gelatin
  • a weakened immune system for one of the following reasons:
  • Have immunodeficiency diseases such as SCID and AIDS
  • Are receiving treatments that weaken the immune system, such as cancer therapy or drugs to control a chronic disease such as arthritis
  • Have had an organ transplantation
  • Are awaiting bone marrow transplant or stem-cell transplant
    • active untreated tuberculosis
    • you are pregnant

Delay Vaccine If You Have:

  • an acute febrile illness more serious than a cold
  • think you may be pregnant, or is trying to get pregnant. Women should not get pregnant for one month after receiving the MMR vaccine
  • an unstable neurologic disorder
  • received a blood product (e.g., blood or plasma transfusion) within the last 11 months
  • received another live vaccine recently (e.g., MMR, MMRV)


Chickenpox is a common childhood illness caused by varicella zoster virus. Chickenpox is very contagious. It is a viral infection that may start with fever, headache and fatigue followed by an itchy rash or the rash may be the first sign of infection. The rash begins as raised pink or red bumps and can spread to almost anywhere on the body. The bumps will gradually form into blisters and then scab over.

The virus is spread by airborne droplets and by direct contact with the blisters. Healthy children tend to have milder symptoms. In rare cases, chickenpox can cause severe complications such as pneumonia, blood infections, severe skin infections, swelling of the brain and birth defects.

Once a person has had chickenpox disease, they are usually protected for life. In adulthood, the virus can reactivate causing a painful rash called shingles.

More information

  • Talk to your healthcare provider
  • Call our Immunization Information Line at 416-392-1250