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Medications and Drugs

Brand Names: Varivax

Generic Name: varicella virus (chickenpox) vaccine (Pronunciation: VAR i SEL a VYE rus vax EEN)

What is varicella virus vaccine (Varivax)?

Varicella (commonly known as chickenpox) is a common childhood disease that causes fever, skin rash, and a breakout of fluid-filled blisters on the skin. Most people who receive this vaccine will not get chickenpox, or will get only a mild case and will recover faster.

Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be serious or even fatal in young infants and in adults. It can lead to severe skin infection, breathing problems, brain damage, or death. A person who has had chickenpox can develop herpes zoster (also called shingles) later in life, which causes severe nerve pain, and hearing or vision problems, which may last for months or years.

Chickenpox is spread from person to person through the air, or by coming into contact with the fluid from a chickenpox blister.

Varicella virus vaccine is for use in adults and children who are at least 12 months old.

This vaccine works by exposing you to a small dose of the virus or a protein from the virus, which causes the body to develop immunity to the disease. This vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.

Like any vaccine, the varicella virus vaccine may not provide protection from disease in every person.

What are the possible side effects of this vaccine (Varivax)?

You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life-threatening allergic reaction after the first shot.

Keep track of any and all side effects you have after receiving this vaccine. When you receive a booster dose, you will need to tell the doctor if the previous shots caused any side effects.

Becoming infected with chickenpox is much more dangerous to your health than receiving the vaccine to protect against it. Like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects, but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • cough, tight feeling in your chest, breathing problems;
  • seizure (black-out or convulsions);
  • easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness;
  • behavior changes; or
  • high fever (within a few hours or a few weeks after the vaccine).

Less serious side effects include:

  • redness, pain, or swelling where the shot was given;
  • low fever;
  • mild skin rash;
  • runny or stuffy nose, cough, sore throat;
  • headache, tired feeling;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • joint or muscle pain; or
  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report vaccine side effects to the US Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-822-7967.

What is the most important information I should know about this vaccine (Varivax)?

The varicella vaccine is given in a series of shots. The first shot is usually given to a child who is 12 to 15 months old. The booster shot is then given at 4 to 6 years of age, or at least 3 months after the first dose.

If you are at least 13 years old and you have never had chickenpox or received this vaccine, you should receive two varicella virus vaccines at least 28 days apart.

Your individual booster schedule may be different from these guidelines. Follow your doctor's instructions or the schedule recommended by your local health department.

Be sure you receive all recommended doses of this vaccine. If you do not receive the full series of vaccines, you may not be fully protected against the disease.

You can still receive a vaccine if you have a cold or fever. In the case of a more severe illness with a fever or any type of infection, wait until you get better before receiving this vaccine.

Do not give salicylates such as aspirin, Disalcid, Doan's Pills, Dolobid, Salflex, Tricosal, and others to a child under 18 for at least 6 weeks after he or she has received varicella vaccine. A serious condition called Reye's Syndrome has been reported in young people with chickenpox who take aspirin or salicylates.

You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life-threatening allergic reaction after the first shot.

Keep track of any and all side effects you have after receiving this vaccine. When you receive a booster dose, you will need to tell the doctor if the previous shots caused any side effects.

Becoming infected with chickenpox is much more dangerous to your health than receiving the vaccine to protect against it. Like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects, but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.



Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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