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 Content Editor

Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine

Learn about the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, effectiveness, side effects, and safety.

Disease it protects from

The varicella vaccine protects against varicella (chickenpox). It also helps lower your risk of developing shingles.

Who should get this vaccine

The following people can get the varicella vaccine:

  • children starting at age 12 months who are not getting the combined measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMR-Var) vaccine
  • younger babies who are ages 6 to 11 months and are going to have an organ transplant
  • anyone born before August 1, 2012, who has not had varicella (Adults need a blood test to check if they need the vaccine.)
  • children born on or after August 1, 2012, who did not get a varicella vaccine as a baby (they may need this vaccine even if they had varicella)

If you have had a stem cell transplant or have had CAR T-cell therapy (a type of cancer treatment), you may need to get this vaccine even if you have already had varicella or varicella vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if this vaccine is recommended for you.

Who should not get this vaccine

You may not be able to get this vaccine if:

  • You have an allergy to any part of the vaccine.
  • You had a severe (serious) or unusual side effect after this vaccine or one like it.
  • You have a weak immune system because of, for example, medicine you take or a health problem.
  • You have a family history of a weak immune system.
  • You had a blood product in the past 11 months.
  • You had another live vaccine in the past 3 months.
  • You are pregnant.

If you are planning to get pregnant, wait 1 month after having this vaccine before you start trying to get pregnant.

If you have allergies or have had a side effect from this vaccine in the past, check with your doctor or a public health nurse before you get the vaccine.

Although you can get the vaccine if you have a mild illness, such as a cold or fever, you should stay home until you are feeling better to prevent spreading you illness to others.

Doses

People born on or after August 1, 2005, need 2 doses of a varicella vaccine. As of January 1, 2021, children get their first dose at age 12 months and the second dose at age 18 months. If your child did not get the varicella vaccine at age 18 months, they will get it at age 4 years. Any doses a child gets before age 12 months do not count as part of the 2 doses they need to protect them against varicella.

If you were born before August 1, 2005, you need 1 or 2 doses of the varicella vaccine. This depends on when you got your first dose. Ask a public health nurse to find out how many doses you or your child needs.

You may need an extra dose if you are going to have an organ transplant. Talk to your healthcare provider about how many doses you need.

Other vaccines that protect against the same disease

The MMR-Var vaccine protects against measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella. Most babies and children get this vaccine as part of the routine immunization schedule. Learn more about Alberta’s routine immunization schedule.

Get the vaccine

You can get the vaccine at your local public health or community health centre.

If you are eligible for just 1 dose of varicella vaccine and you want a second dose of varicella vaccine, you will need to pay for it. Contact a travel health clinic or talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out.

Current as of: February 1, 2024
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
Our work takes place on historical and contemporary Indigenous lands, including the territories of Treaty 6, Treaty 7 & Treaty 8 and the homeland of the Métis Nation of Alberta and 8 Métis Settlements. We also acknowledge the many Indigenous communities that have been forged in urban centres across Alberta.