Varicella virus vaccine (By injection)


Varicella Virus Vaccine (var-i-SEL-a VYE-rus VAX-een)

Varivax® prevents chicken pox and Zostavax® prevents shingles. Both are caused by varicella virus.

Brand Name(s)

Varivax, Zostavax

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

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 health provider will give you this medicine.
  • Varivax®:
    • Most people will need 2 shots. Children usually receive one shot at 12 to 15 months of age and a second shot between 4 and 6 years of age. Teenagers and adults should have a second shot 4 weeks after the first dose.
  • Zostavax®:
    • Only 1 dose is needed.
  • Read and follow the patient instructions that come with this medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  • Missed dose: It is important that Varivax® be given at the proper time. If a scheduled shot is missed, 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.

  • You should not receive this vaccine if you are also taking cancer medicines or steroid medicine.
  • Tell your doctor if you plan to get a flu shot or other vaccines. Zostavax® should not be given with Pneumovax® 23 pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Children and adolescents should not take aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin (including cold medicines) for 6 weeks after receiving this vaccine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant. Do not become pregnant for 3 months after you receive this vaccine without first checking with your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding, or if you have received a blood transfusion, other blood products, or an immune globulin.
  • You may be able to pass the virus to other people after your get this vaccine. You should avoid close contact with people at high risk for chickenpox for 6 weeks after you receive this vaccine. Some examples of people who are at high risk are pregnant women, newborn babies, and those with immune system problems (including bone marrow disease, cancer, or AIDS). Talk to your doctor if you have questions.

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
  • Cough, chills, runny or stuffy nose, or cold-like symptoms
  • High fever (at least 102 degrees F in children)

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Ear pain
  • Mild skin rash, itching, or dryness
  • Pain, redness, itching, swelling, rash, or a lump where the shot was given

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

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/4/2017

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (

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- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.