Chickenpox

When should I immunize my child to protect against chickenpox?

Your child is recommended to receive the immunizations that will protect him or her against chickenpox (Varicella), at the following ages:

Dose 1 - MMR-Var

12 months

Dose 2 - MMR-Var

4 - 6 years

Please note: Children who've had varicella disease before 12 months of age should still be immunized.

See full schedule.

Chickenpox quick facts:

Chickenpox – also called Varicella – is a highly contagious viral infection.

Chickenpox is easily spread through the air (by sneezing or coughing) and by direct contact with the lesions of someone who is infected.

Chickenpox can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can cause convulsions, deafness or brain damage.

Complications are more common in teens, adults, and people with weak immune systems. If a woman gets chickenpox a few days before or after giving birth, her baby has a high risk of severe disease, which can lead to death.

What can happen to my child if he or she gets chickenpox?

In addition to the very unpleasant itchy rash – which can cause permanent scarring – your child could develop pneumonia and swelling of the brain as a result of being infected with the chickenpox virus. 

Sadly, unborn children are even at risk. Pregnant women exposed to chickenpox may give birth to babies with severe deformities.

About the immunization:

Chickenpox can be prevented through immunization.
The vaccine that protects your child against chickenpox is called the MMR-Var vaccine.
This vaccine protects against four diseases – measles, mumps, rubella and varicella – “chickenpox” - disease
When your child gets the MMR-Var vaccine, your child’s immune system will be prompted to build antibodies that protect – or “arm” – your child against chickenpox. 

Does the chickenpox vaccine cause autism?

No, vaccines do not cause autism. Research has found no link between vaccine and autism. You may have heard about Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon who suggested a link between autism and vaccine. What you may not have heard is that the research he published was found to be false, and Wakefield had his medical licence taken away because of this. In January 2010, Britain’s statutory tribunal of the General Medical Council found Wakefield guilty of four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children, as it pertained to his false research on autism.

Safety

Your child cannot get chickenpox, or any other diseases, from the MMR-Var vaccine.

This vaccine is safe, and provides your child with protection against a disease that is not safe.

The risk that chickenpox poses to your child’s health is far greater than any risk related to immunizing your child against chickenpox. 

Learn more about General Vaccine Safety here.

Safety checks before immunization

Your nurse will talk to you about your child’s health history before giving your child any vaccines. This will include questions about any medicines your child is taking, health conditions your child has or is experiencing, as well as any allergies your child may have. Your nurse will guide you on what is safe for your child, based on your child’s health history.      

When your nurse talks to you about your child’s health history, it is important that you inform your nurse if your child:

  • is sick or has a fever greater than 38.5 C (101.3 F)
  • has allergies to any part of the vaccine
  • is allergic to any foods, drugs, bee stings, etc.
  • has a weakened immune system (immune compromised)
  • has had an allergic reaction (such as anaphylaxis) or other severe or unusual reaction to this or other vaccines in the past

Your nurse will guide you on what is safe for your child, based on your child’s health history.      

PLEASE NOTE: Your child should NOT get the vaccine if he/she has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to this vaccine in the past.

What might my child experience after immunization?

Reactions to the vaccine are usually mild and go away within a few days. Reactions may happen up to 6 weeks after immunization. They may include:

  • redness, swelling, and/or discomfort where the needle was given
  • fever
  • feeling irritable
  • diarrhea, vomiting
  • upper respiratory tract infection
  • measles-like rash (blotchy red) or chickenpox-like rash (water blisters)

Unexpected or unusual reactions can happen after being immunized. Call Health Link at 811 to report any unusual reactions.

How can I manage my child’s symptoms after immunization?

No matter your child’s age, it is normal for him or her to experience some common, mild and temporary symptoms after immunization. 

Here are a few tips to manage these mild symptoms:

  • Fever. If you need medicine for fever or pain, check with your pharmacist or doctor. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully. If you are not sure whether your child’s fever is related to the immunization, dial 811 for Health Link or talk to your doctor or pharmacist, before giving your child medicine. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 19 years of age. Aspirin increases the risk of a rare but serious disease called Reye Syndrome.
  • Swelling or redness around injection point. Put a cool moist cloth on the area for about 10 to 20 minutes. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you need medicine to help relieve the discomfort. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully.
  • Skin rash. Sometimes after your child gets the MMR-Var vaccine, a mild skin rash may appear. These types of rashes may last several days and will go away without treatment. If there is a chickenpox-like rash (small water blisters), keep it covered with clothing. If the rash can’t be covered, stay away from pregnant women, newborn babies whose mothers haven’t had the chickenpox, and people with weak immune systems. If there are more than 50 spots, call Health Link at 811.

Severe allergic reactions after immunization are rare, occurring at an estimated annual rate of only one to ten per one million doses of vaccine administered, and can be treated. Our nurses will ask that you stay with your child, in the immunization clinic, for at least 15 minutes after your child receives his or her immunizations. For the dose that your child receives in school, the nurse will also require your child to stay for at least 15 minutes after his or her immunization. This will allow the nurse to identify and treat any immediate allergic reaction that could occur.

If you are concerned about symptoms your child is experiencing after immunization, dial 811 for Health Link to speak to a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your child is experiencing severe shortness of breath, call 911.