Varicella virus vaccine (Injection)


Varicella Virus Vaccine (var-i-SEL-a VYE-rus VAX-een)
Prevents varicella virus (chickenpox) in adults and children 12 months of age and older. Some types of this vaccine (such as Zostavax®) are used to prevent herpes zoster (shingles) in adults 60 years of age and older.

Brand Name(s)

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

Varivax, Zostavax

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

You should not receive this vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction to varicella virus vaccine, or to gelatin or neomycin. You should not receive this vaccine if you are pregnant or may get pregnant, or if you or your child have a blood or bone marrow disorder (such as leukemia or lymphoma), active and untreated tuberculosis (TB), or any illness with fever. Do not receive this vaccine if you or your child are taking steroids (such as dexamethasone or prednisone), medicine to treat cancer, or other medicines that weaken the immune system. The Zostavax® brand of this vaccine should not be given to children.

How to Use This Medicine

  • Your doctor will prescribe your exact dose and tell you how often it should be given. This medicine is given as a shot under your skin.
  • A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
  • With Varivax®, children 12 months to 12 years of age may need a second shot within 3 months after receiving the first vaccine. Teenagers and adults should have a "booster" shot 4 to 8 weeks after the first vaccine.
  • Adults receiving Zostavax® should receive only one dose of the vaccine unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • This medicine comes with patient instructions. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
If a dose is missed:
  • It is important to receive this vaccine at the proper time. If you or your child miss a scheduled shot, call your doctor to make another appointment as soon as possible.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.
  • Patients who receive the Zostavax® vaccine should not receive certain other vaccines at the same time. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this.
  • You or your child should not take aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin (such as certain cold medicines) for 6 weeks after receiving this vaccine. Carefully check the label of any pain, headache, or cold medicine you or your child use to be sure it does not contain aspirin or salicylic acid.
  • After receiving the Varivax® vaccine, you or your child should not receive a varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) or other immune globulin for at least 2 months. Also, you or your child will need to wait at least 5 months after receiving immune globulin, VZIG, or a blood or plasma transfusion before you can get the Varivax® vaccine.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you or your child is using a medicine that weakens the immune system, such as a steroid or cancer medicine. This vaccine may not work as well if you or your child has a weak immune system.
  • Talk to your doctor before your child gets flu shots or other vaccines after he or she receives this vaccine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away. Avoid getting pregnant for 3 months after getting this vaccine.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding.
  • You or your child may be able to pass the virus to other people after getting this vaccine. You or your child should avoid close contact with people at high risk for getting chickenpox for 6 weeks after receiving this vaccine. People who are most at risk of catching the virus from you are pregnant women, newborn babies, and people whose bodies cannot fight infection (such as with bone marrow disease, cancer drug treatment, or AIDS). Talk to your doctor about this risk.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:
  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing.
  • Blistering, peeling, or red skin rash.
  • Chest pain.
  • Cough, chills, runny or stuffy nose, or cold-like symptoms.
  • High fever (over 102 degrees F).
  • Seizures (convulsions).
  • Shortness of breath, cold sweat, and bluish-colored skin.
  • Skin rash that looks like chickenpox.
  • Swollen glands where the shot was given.
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Weakness or loss of feeling in any part of your body.
If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:
  • Diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, stomach pain, or loss of appetite.
  • Feeling tired, depressed, nervous, or irritable.
  • Headache, ear pain, joint, or muscle pain.
  • Mild skin rash, itching, or dryness.
  • Pain, redness, itching, swelling, rash, or a hard lump where the shot was given.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Trouble with sleeping.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088
Review Date: 2011-02-04 Reviewed By: Keywords: ,
Adam Data Copyright The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only--they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

For information 410.787.4000

© 2015 UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center.  All rights reserved.

301 Hospital Drive, Glen Burnie, MD 21061 | 410-787-4000 | TTY 410-787-4498