Varicella (Chicken Pox) Vaccine

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Chicken Pox Vaccine for Adults

Feb 2005

Does anyone have any information about a chicken pox vaccine for adults? Is it available? I am a thirty year old mom with a four month old baby and worry about getting chicken pox when/if my son ever gets exposed. I want him to get it but worry about the dangers for adults. Any thoughts? Chicken about chicken pox

Call your doctor and see if they have the doses in the office. If they do not, ask them to order them. You need two shots a few months apart ( if my memory serves me correctly). If this does not work, ask your pediatrician. Some will do it and some will not (mine did when I discovered I needed two shots not just one). You absolutely want to get the vaccine. You could be really really really sick, and develop secondary illnesses later in life. You also might want to consider the vaccine for your child because he/she might be in your position 20, 30 years from now. Leslie
The bad news is chicken pox can be extremely serious in adults (even fatal). The good news is there is an adult vaccine. So, run, don! 't walk to your doctor to get the vaccine. I was in your situation, and Kaiser checked to make sure I was not immune already and then gave me the chicken pox vaccine (varicella) in two doses about a month apart. The period before your own child is vaccinated (about one year I believe) is very risky to the non-immune adult. Also, I think I read that if you are coming down with chicken pox, if you get vaccinated immediately, it can lessen the severity of the disease. Please consider getting vaccinated right away and good luck! Jan
Hi, I had to get the vaccination after my ob discovered that I hadn't ever had it or the chicken pox. She missed this in my first pregnancy and fortunately caught it right before we tried for number two. My GP didn't have the vaccination--I guess insurance doesn't cover it, at least that's what they told me--so I went to the SF Dept. of Health at the Civic Center and got it there. I think it was $70 or so. It's a two shot process and they were great. Absolutely no side effects. Hope this helps... heidi
Contact your physician or medical group. When I was vaccinated as an adult in 1997, it was two shots, one month apart. I think it's still two shots, but it may be only one now, not sure. Anon
I would make an appointment tomorrow to get a chicken pox vaccination. The older you are, the more severe the disease. Children do much better with the disease than adults. The reason why there is a vaccination is because chicken pox can cause pneumonia, swelling of the brain or death. It tends to happen more in adults. The CDC highly recommends vaccination unless you already had the disease. Dr. M
The deal is that you can't have the vaccine until you are no longer breastfeeding. If you're not breastfeeding, go for it. You! will need to have a booster; be sure you remember that and ask your doc. I had the vaccine when it first came out but no booster (they didn't realize the necessity at first), and I'm not immune (found that out while preggers-- argh). I also developed some pox after the vaccine, but not ''real'' ones (didn't itch, went away soon) but that's a very rare side effect. Pox-free for now!
I'm assuming you're asking about this because you never had chicken pox before? I also never had chicken pox growing up, so I looked into getting the vaccine a few years ago - the first step before getting the vaccine, even if you think you never had chicken pox, is to get tested for the antibodies. Turns out I did have the antibodies, so apparently you can be exposed to the virus enough to get the antibodies but not show symptoms. I think there is still a chance of getting the virus, but it's sli! m. If you don't have the antibodies, one important thing to keep in mind is that if you're planning to get pregnant, you need to wait a year (or some length of time, can't remember how long exactly) after getting the vaccine before you get pregnant. Also if you're still breastfeeding I'd check with your doctor - I don't know if that matters but it's worth asking about. Anon

Chicken Pox vaccine side effects

Nov 2002

My 1-year-old son is due for the Chicken Pox vaccine at his next dr. appt., and I wanted to find out if any toddlers have experienced side effects when they had the Chicken Pox vaccine. Did any of them get a rash afterwards? How long afterwards? Was it bad enough to warrant medication? After past shots, my son has often gotten cranky (even for those where fussiness was only a possible side effect), so I'm concerned about how he might react to this vaccine. Any advice on how other kids reacted would be very appreciated. Lisa

Hi - my twenty-two month old son just got the Chicken Pox vaccine and had an immediate reaction - within an hour he had a fever of 103.6 and was extremely listless. This lasted a little over 24 hours and took place just over a week ago. No pox have appeared on his body. Though, if they do, my advice nurse told me that they are, indeed, contagious just like the real thing. They can appear anytime up to one month after getting the vaccine. Keep this in mind if you are planning to be with other children/family members/friends that have not yet had Chicken Pox. Remember, the holidays are just around the corner! A Mom in Oakland
My son got the vaccine a couple of months ago. He had absolutely no symptoms. Sally
My daughter received her first Chicken pox Vaccine a couple months ago. She did have a slight reaction to it but it showed up about ten days after the vaccine was given. She got a couple spots on her back, but it did not seem to bother her. The doctor said that this was a common side effect. The shot is also a painful shot, so I tried to be careful of the area in which the shot was given for a couple days. Amy
My son developed a live case of chicken pox after he got the vaccine. His pediatrician said that only about 5% of children do, and that we might as well consider ourselves lucky in that the protection would be that much greater. His symptoms were extremely mild--only two or three spots that I might not have noticed if the biggest were not right at the injection site. He also had a very mild fever for a day or so. Otherwise, he felt just fine. The hardest part of the experience was that we had to keep him quarantined for a week, and we all got pretty bored. Carolyn

Want exposure, not vaccination

April 2001

I decided not to vaccinate my 2 kids against chicken pox, so I want them to get exposed to the virus before too long. Do you or anyone you know have the chicken pox that you'd like to share with us? Please call or email me.

I just read a posting asking for exposure to chickenpox instead of a child receiving the vacccine. As an advocate for child health and disease prevention, I would just like to point out that chickenpox or its complications has been the NUMBER ONE cause of childhood death among vaccine-preventable illnesses in this country. Yes, chickenpox is usually a mild (albeit annoying) illness in most children, but why would you want to expose your child to a *strong* form of the virus when there is a much weaker (and less dangerous) form available as a vaccine? In addition, the rate of shingles (a painful reactivation of chicken pox) appears to be lower in vaccinated children. When my vaccinated daughter was exposed to the chickenpox outbreak at school, I just whistled a happy tune as she didn't get sick and got her own shotless booster. Margery
The problem with the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine is that it doesn't seem to work all that well. My *personal* experience (I am not speaking in any sort of health advisory capacity here), is that the vaccinated children at my daughter's preschool still came down with the chicken pox, although usually with a milder case. My *unvaccinated* daughter (who was not quite 3 years old at the time) also came down with a very mild case. My concern in both cases (mild symptoms, whether unvaccinated or vaccinated), is that the immunity will not be very strong, leaving the child open to secondary attacks later in life when the consequences can be *much* more serious. There is no really good evidence (at least there wasn't when I was reading about it almost 4 years ago) to say what the *long-term* (i.e., lifelong) immunity effects will be from the vaccine--it simply hasn't been studied long enough, even in Japan or Europe, to say what will happen in 50 years. My fear is that we are creating, through use of an imperfect vaccine, a whole cohort of people who will be vulnerable to this disease later in life, with possible epidemiological consequences in 30 or 40 years.

Each parent will need to decide for themselves, based on the current available information, what their choice is in this matter. My choice was to leave her unvaccinated till age 5 or so, and then, if she hadn't contracted it by then, probably give her the vaccine before entering kindergarten. I wish all of us good luck in charting a course through these especially murky waters. Dawn

I was cheered by the posting asking for exposure to Chickenpox. When my kids had them (not in Berkeley) that was a standard response among parents of otherwise healthy kids (and meant my sick kids could find friends to play with - and infect). My understanding is that virtually all cases of death and catastrophic reaction to Chickenpox virus involve kids with compromised immune systems, SPECIFICALLY asthmatic kids taking PREDNISONE. A healthy kid should be able to tolerate a dose of chickenpox -- it is of course terribly important to keep the child out of the company of those for whom contracting Chickenpox WOULD be devastating. I think the vaccine is easier on the parents -- no missed school or daycare, no itchy kids to deal with. Heather
I have chosen to postpone the chicken pox vaccine for my little one based on a conversation I had with an MD/PhD at UCSF whose speciality is childhood vaccines. He said the chicken pox vaccine just hasn't been around long enough to know what the long term consequences are. Basically, the argument goes, getting chicken pox as a child offers lifelong immunity to the disease; the vaccine, however, does not. Margaret

Can vaccinated children still get chicken pox?


I am a childcare provider. In the last year or so I have seen many cases of children who were vaccinated and still got chicken pox, mild cases, but bad enough to make them uncomfortable. I do believe it is contagious and can be passed to someone who already had chicken pox or had been vaccinated. Some of the children in my program (who had the vaccine) got chicken pox and others didn't. Most of these children's pediatricians diagnosed the illness as chicken pox. One doctor, according to the child's mother, mentioned that it looked like chicken pox but couldn't tell for sure because he had never seen a case like this. To me, it was obvious this child had it, specially because, at the same time, there were two other children recovering from it at home.

A few years ago I asked our pediatrician about giving my then 5 or 6 year old daughter the chicken pox vaccination. She had been exposed to the chicken pox at least 3 times and hadn't gotten them. At the time his office was not giving the vaccination. So we figured that we'd wait and if she turned 10 or 12 without ever getting the virus, we'd insist that she get the vaccination. However, this year at her 8 yr old check up she was given the vaccination and she had no reaction (our 4 yr old also had the vaccination with no reaction). The pediatrician would prefer not to give the vaccination, but since so many children are getting vaccinated the chances for actually getting the virus as a child are much less and getting chicken pox as an adult is much more serious.
When our son's best friend came down with chickenpox in daycare, we spoke to our pediatrician about the vaccine. It was too late for the vaccine to protect our son at that time, so we gave it some thought. We finally decided that the issues regarding revaccination later on were so unknown that we decided not to have him vaccinated. He did catch chickenpox about 8 months later, after multiple exposures. He hardly felt ill and missed only 3 days of preschool. (By then, most of the kids in his preschool had had it so the school was probably more relaxed about his return than it would have been otherwise.) Our son is generally very healthy, so that might have been a factor in his experience. Also, he had no one at home to put at risk. One child at his school passed it to her baby sister and her mother, who was very ill with it.
The common wisdom on the Varicella (Chicken Pox) Vaccine is that spread to others from people vaccinated is highly unlikely. But be warned - it definitely CAN happen! My daughter received the vaccine at her 1 year check-up. 2 weeks later she had a very small pox on her arm at the location of the shot, and maybe 1 or 2 more on her leg (not too uncommon). 2 weeks after that, I now have 50-60 pox all over my body (and, supposedly, I already had chicken pox as a child) The good news is that the virus in the vaccine is an attenuated version of what they call the wild chicken pox, and what I have is relatively mild compared to what adults may typically suffer from the wild chicken pox. No fever or other illness symptoms, and relatively little itching. But inconvenient, mildly irritating, and not a pretty sight. Apparently, our pediatrician has never seen a case of this, and neither they nor my doctor can tell me much.