The chicken pox vaccine is a newcomer relative to the list of standard immunizations given to children in the United States. The chicken pox vaccine was first licensed in 1995, which means many new parents may have not been vaccinated themselves as children. The vaccine is given to children twice during childhood. The first dose is administered after the first birthday, with the second dose between the fourth and sixth birthdays. The vaccine is estimated to yield 86 percent protection against disease after one dose and 98 percent protection after both doses.
Like most vaccines, some side effects are common. About a quarter of recipients will experience some pain or discomfort at the site of injection. About 1 in 100 kids will develop a rash at the site of injection, and 3 in 100 may develop a more generalized chicken pox-like rash. Unlike chicken pox, which averages 250-500 discrete red spots, the rash after immunization may only show a few spots. Fever is also possible, but should be mild and short lasting. Like any side effects, if you are at all concerned, you should bring the symptom to your pediatrician’s attention.
Some offices offer a combined measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine, thereby decreasing the number of needlesticks a toddler needs. For those children receiving the combined vaccine, it is important to note there is a very small increase in the risk of febrile seizures due to the increased likelihood of fever after the vaccine. Again, if you are at all concerned, discuss this with your child’s doctor.
Since its licensure in 1995, the incidence of chicken pox in the United States has plummeted. What was once a childhood rite of passage is now less and less common. For the average child, who had mild fever and an itchy rash for a week or so, this is good news. For the child with a weak immune system, this is great news as it means a much lower risk of hospitalization and death due to varicella.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, January 2019
- Chickenpox is caused by the varicella virus. A vaccine was introduced in 1995.
- Children will receive two chicken pox vaccinations before starting kindergarten.
- Some doctors’ offices use a combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine.
- Minor side effects can include a few chicken pox spots and a mild fever.