Who is at risk from chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a common childhood infection. Usually, it’s mild and complications are rare. Almost all children develop immunity to chickenpox after infection, so most only catch it once. The disease can be more severe in adults.
Certain groups of people, however, are at greater risk of serious complications from chickenpox. These include:
- people who have weakened immune systems through illnesses such as HIV or treatments like chemotherapy
- pregnant women – chickenpox can be very serious for an unborn baby when a pregnant woman catches the infection. It can cause a range of serious birth defects, as well as severe disease in the baby when it is born. Read more about what to do if you catch or are exposed to chickenpox in pregnancy
Who should have the chickenpox vaccine?
It is recommended for certain individuals, such as:
- non-immune healthcare workers
- people who come into close contact with someone who has a weakened immune system
This is to lower the chances of infecting people at risk. For example, if you’re having chemotherapy treatment, it’s advisable that non-immune children close to you are given the chickenpox vaccine.
The vaccine would also be recommended if you were about to start work in a radiotherapy department and had not had chickenpox before.
Read more about who should have the chickenpox vaccine.
How the chickenpox vaccine works
The chickenpox vaccine is a live vaccine and contains a small amount of weakened chickenpox-causing virus.
The vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies that will help protect against chickenpox.
Read more about live vaccines.
Read more about chickenpox vaccine side effects.
How is the chickenpox vaccine given?
The vaccine is given as two separate injections, usually into the upper arm, four to eight weeks apart.
How effective is the chickenpox vaccine?
It’s been shown that 9 out of 10 children vaccinated with a single dose will develop immunity against chickenpox. Two doses are recommended, as this gives an even better immune response.
The vaccination is not quite as effective after childhood. It’s estimated that three-quarters of teenagers and adults who are vaccinated will become immune to chickenpox.
If you are worried your child has a rash that could be chickenpox, take a look at this childhood rashes slideshow to see if the rash is a typical symptom of chickenpox or another childhood condition.
Read answers to common questions about the chickenpox vaccine.
The chickenpox vaccine gives about 98% protection in children and about 75% protection in teenagers and adults against chickenpox infection. For those who are vaccinated but still get chickenpox, the symptoms will generally be milder.
Vaccination policies vary worldwide, chickenpox vaccine is not part of the UK routine immunisation programme, but it is in Germany, Australia, Canada & USA.
If you have not had chickenpox and are exposed to someone with this disease or shingles, the chickenpox vaccine can be given up to 5 days (ideally within 3 days) after exposure to prevent the disease or making it less serious. This can also protect you from chickenpox if you are exposed again in the future.
Why not let my child get chickenpox naturally and build natural immunity?
1) Chickenpox can be a mild disease, but it isn’t always. There’s no way to know who will have a mild case and who will become very sick. When your child gets his or her chickenpox vaccine, he or she is getting immunity from chickenpox without the risk of serious complications of the disease.
2) Prevents your child from feeling itchy and uncomfortable from chickenpox
3) Keeps your child from missing school or childcare (and keeps you from missing work to care for your sick child).
Dosage and schedules
This vaccine can be given to both adults and children 1 year and over. Two doses are required to be given at east four weeks apart.
Chickenpox vaccine may be given at the same time or at any time before or after other vaccines. However, if chickenpox and MMR vaccines are not administered on the same day, then a four week minimum interval period should be observed.
Is the chickenpox vaccine safe?
Yes, chickenpox vaccine is well tolerated. Extensive data shows the most commonly reported reactions are at the injection site (pain, redness and rash). Generalised symptoms, such as fever and rash, can also occur but less frequently.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding
Women who are pregnant should not receive the chickenpox vaccine and pregnancy should be avoided for one month following the last dose.
Studies have shown that the vaccine virus is not transferred to the infant through breast milk and therefore breast-feeding women can be vaccinated if indicated.
Availability of chickenpox vaccine on NHS
The chickenpox vaccine is currently only offered on the NHS to people who are in close contact with someone who is particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications.
Can chickenpox vaccine be given at the same time as Men B vaccine?
Yes, they can be given at the same time or at any time before or after each other.
Dears Pharmacy can provide the Chicken Pox Vaccine in all our pharmacies. The vaccine costs £65 per dose and is a course of two vaccines.
Dears Pharmacy also offers the Meningitis B Vaccine in all our pharmacies. The vaccine costs £110 per dose and is a course of two to three vaccines depending on age.
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