Chickenpox used to be a common infection in the United States. For example, in the 1990s, about 4 million people got chickenpox every year, and more than 10,000 people experienced hospitalization. In 1995, the chickenpox vaccine became available. As a result, the annual chickenpox cases in the U.S. have fallen dramatically.

Today, only about 500,000 people in the U.S. get chickenpox each year. To keep these numbers low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the chicken pox vaccine for almost anyone who has never had chickenpox or received the vaccine.

Varicella-zoster is the virus that causes chickenpox. Chickenpox is a contagious infection that causes an itchy rash, fever, and fatigue. The chicken pox vaccine is also called the varicella vaccine. It can help prevent chicken pox.

Two doses of the vaccine can typically be effective at preventing chickenpox. The CDC recommends the varicella vaccine for almost all children, adolescents, and adults who’ve never had chickenpox.

The CDC encourages that children receive their first dose of the varicella vaccine when they are between 12 and 15 months old and their second dose when they are between 4 and 6 years old.

However, the above ages are not the only times you can receive the vaccine. Experts encourage almost anyone who hasn’t received the vaccine or who hasn’t had chickenpox to get the vaccine.

Experts especially encourage adults to get the chickenpox vaccine if they:

  • work in healthcare or the military
  • live or work with children, in a correctional facility, or in a group home or group living situation
  • may become pregnant
  • plan to do extensive international travel

Varicella vaccine schedule for adults

Almost anyone more than 13 years old can get two doses of the varicella vaccine. Doctors need to give these doses at least 28 days apart. You can schedule these doses with a local doctor’s office, pharmacy, clinic, or health services center.

How long is the varicella vaccination good for?

Two doses of the varicella vaccine usually give lifetime protection. There is currently no recommendation for a varicella booster.

Is the varicella vaccine mandatory?

Federal law does not require the varicella vaccine. However, in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia, state laws require children to have a round of vaccinations before they can attend school or a child care program.

As of the 2021 school year, all states require at least one dose of the varicella vaccine. A total of 45 states require both doses. Check the requirements for your state here.

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There are two varicella vaccines available in the U.S. One has clearance for use in children and adults, but the other has clearance for use as a children’s vaccine. Varicella vaccines include:

  • Varivax. This vaccine is for people of all ages. It contains only the chickenpox vaccine.
  • Proquod. This vaccine is for use in children under 12 years old. It’s a combination of the vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella.

The varicella vaccine is usually extremely effective. The CDC reports that more than 90% of people who receive the varicella vaccine never get chickenpox. People who receive the vaccine, but do get chickenpox, typically have milder cases.

Does the varicella vaccine protect against monkeypox?

The varicella vaccine does not protect against monkeypox. A different virus causes monkeypox, so you’ll need a different vaccine to teach your body to clear it.

If you think you experienced monkeypox exposure or that you are at high risk for monkeypox, there are vaccines available in health centers across the country. The CDC has information to help you determine your risk and locate vaccination centers near you.

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The varicella vaccine is usually safe. However, all vaccines can have side effects. Side effects of the varicella vaccine are typically mild and generally resolve on their own within a day or two. They include fever and injection site:

  • redness or discoloration
  • swelling
  • rash
  • pain

Very rarely, more serious effects do occur. These side effects can be symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. It’s important to get urgent medical care if you or your child experiences any of these side effects:

Health insurance providers almost always cover vaccines. If you don’t have health insurance, there are still ways to get the varicella vaccine at low or no cost.

For instance, the Vaccines for Children program can help eligible families access free vaccines for children. Facilities such as college health centers and community health centers might also offer free or low cost vaccines.

You can also use a pharmacy discount program to get a varicella vaccine for around $150 without insurance.

The varicella vaccine typically protects against chickenpox. The vaccine is usually effective at preventing chickenpox for more than 90% of people who receive it.

The CDC recommends that children receive their first dose of the vaccine between 12 and 15 months old and a second dose between 4 and 6 years old. Many people more than 13 years old can receive the vaccine at any time. Doctors will typically give two doses, at least 28 days apart.

Protection from the vaccine is lifelong, and experts do not usually recommend boosters. You can get coverage for the varicella vaccine with many insurance plans.