Chicken Pox Vaccine
The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule in the UK but it is in other countries such as the USA.
WHAT IS CHICKENPOX?
- Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
- It typically causes a fever, and a rash consisting of itchy, inflamed pimples that soon turn into blisters that crust over to form scabs. It is not unknown for people to have up to 500 blisters or more over their entire body.
- In the UK, it most often affects children.
- It can be itchy and uncomfortable, leave scars, and sometimes cause severe disease. Adults may suffer more serious symptoms, including pneumonia. In people with reduced immunity, chickenpox can be fatal.
- In countries where chickenpox vaccine is given routinely (such as in the USA), protecting vulnerable populations with reduced immunity is considered to be a major reason for using the vaccine widely.
- Chickenpox is spread by inhaling droplets coughed up by people infected with the virus, or by physical contact.
- People with chickenpox become contagious about 2 days before the appearance of the rash, which can make it difficult to avoid becoming infected.
WHAT DOES THE CHICKENPOX VACCINE DO?
Chickenpox vaccine contains live, weakened virus that stimulates immunity to varicella-zoster virus and protects against chickenpox.
WHO SHOULD BE VACCINATED AGAINST CHICKENPOX
The chickenpox vaccination can be given both to children (aged over 1) and to adults. Chickenpox is more serious in adults.
If you have recently been exposed to a person with chickenpox, and have not had chickenpox in the past, there may be some benefit to being vaccinated. Early vaccination within 5 days of exposure may prevent the disease appearing or may make it less serious. The vaccine will also protect you from future exposure to chickenpox.
WHO SHOULD NOT RECEIVE THE CHICKENPOX VACCINE
Please advise us if you are allergic to anything to allow us to check with the components of the vaccine.
Chickenpox vaccines contain a live virus, and therefore should not be given to individuals who have reduced immunity (e.g. as a result of HIV, or cancer chemotherapy) or during pregnancy.
If other live vaccines are also needed, they should be administered on the same day or with a gap of at least one-month between them for optimal efficacy. We will be happy to advise you in more detail.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE CHICKENPOX VACCINE
The most common side effect of chickenpox vaccine is soreness around the injection site. Other side effects are rare, include allergic reactions and non specific post-viral reactions. A mild chicken pox like rash may also develop in 10% of vaccinated children.
As the vaccine is live it is shed to a small degree for a time after each vaccination. Avoid close contact with susceptible high risk individuals for up to 6 weeks following vaccination. Please ask for more information.
HOW IS THE CHICKENPOX VACCINE GIVEN?
For a child, the vaccine is typically given in the child’s thigh. For children and adults, two doses of vaccine are necessary, with a minimum 4-week gap between the doses.