The chickenpox vaccine, also called the varicella vaccine, can help protect your child against infection with the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. Chickenpox spreads though coughing, sneezing, and personal contact. It first causes a fever, followed by the appearance of red, itchy spots. There may only be a few spots or there may be hundreds all over the body. The spots become blisters, which then dry out and crust over. Chickenpox usually lasts 7 to 10 days.
For some people, chickenpox is a mild and harmless childhood disease, but this is not always true! Chickenpox can cause serious complications such as bacterial skin infections (including necrotizing fasciitis, also known as "flesh-eating" disease), pneumonia, heart infections, bone infections, strokes, and encephalitis (a serious brain infection). Although it happens very rarely, people can die from chickenpox: about 30 adults die per 100,000 cases. It occurs less often among children, with about 1 death per 100,000 cases in children aged 1 to 19 and 7 per 100,000 in infants under 1 years old. If a woman gets chickenpox when she is pregnant, her baby may be born with eye problems (including blindness), malformed limbs, skin scarring, or brain damage.
Health Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now recommends that most children receive 2 doses of the chickenpox vaccine. Each province or territory has slightly different recommendations on when the vaccine should be given. See the vaccine schedule for your province or territory, or talk to your child's health care professional to find out when your child should receive their vaccine. Remember that your child must receive all doses on time in order to have the best chance of being protected.
The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is not intended to be used for treatment of active infection. As with other vaccines, this vaccine may not protect 100% of people who receive it, and it may cause side effects.