If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Why is a vaccine for chickenpox needed?
Chickenpox is a disease that can be very easily spread from person to person. It is most common in children. Most cases occur in people who are younger than 15 years of age. Chickenpox is usually a mild illness. The most common symptom is itchy red dots that appear over the entire body. The dots turn into fluid-filled blisters and end as scabs. The disease can also cause flu-like symptoms, including fever, drowsiness, poor appetite, headache, and sore throat. Some children get sicker than others.
Chickenpox can be a very serious illness in infants and adults. It can cause problems such as skin infections, brain swelling, and pneumonia. Because chickenpox is so contagious, a child who has chickenpox shouldn’t go to school or day care until all the sores have dried or crusted. Many parents miss work during the time their child has chickenpox.
Path to Improved Health
Chickenpox was once a common childhood disease until a vaccine was invented to prevent it. Today, you can keep your children from getting chickenpox by making sure they get the vaccine.
The purpose of a vaccine is to prevent you from getting a specific disease. The chickenpox vaccine is called the varicella vaccine. It is called varicella because the varicella virus causes chickenpox. Up to 90% of people who receive the vaccine will not get chickenpox. People who get chickenpox after having the vaccine have a milder form of the disease.
Who should be vaccinated against chickenpox?
The chickenpox vaccine is given in 2 doses. It’s given to children at 12 months of age and again at 18 months of age. It can also be given to older children and adults at any time. Anyone who has not had chickenpox should get the vaccine. It is especially important for:
- Health-care or day-care workers
- College students
- Military personnel
- Inmates and staff of correctional institutions
- Women of childbearing age who are not pregnant (women should avoid pregnancy for 1 month following the vaccine)
- Anyone traveling to other countries outside Canada
Things to Consider
Not everyone should get the varicella vaccine. Those who shouldn’t include:
- People with weak immune systems and/or people who are taking drugs to suppress their immune system.
- Pregnant women
- Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to the varicella vaccine in the past
The following people should talk to their healthcare provider before getting the varicella vaccine:
- Anyone who has an immune system disease, such as HIV
- Anyone who is receiving high doses of steroids, such as prednisone
- Anyone who is receiving treatment for cancer with X-rays, drugs or chemotherapy
- Anyone who has received blood products during the past 5 months, such as a blood transfusion
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions about whether you should receive the varicella vaccine.
Are there any side effects from the varicella vaccine?
Most kids have no problems with the chickenpox vaccine. The most common side effects are pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. Severe reactions are rare. If your child seems to be having any side effects or reaction to the vaccine, call your healthcare provider right away.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Health Canada website at: