Varicella-Zoster (Chickenpox) Vaccine

Varivax III®, Varilrix®

This vaccine protects against chickenpox virus. This disease is easily prevented with immunization.

What is chickenpox (varicella)?

  • Highly contagious infection that causes an itchy rash or spots on the skin that look like small water blisters.
  • Easily spread by touching the blister fluid or by coughing and sneezing. The virus can survive in the air for several hours and infect others even when the infected person is not there anymore.
  • A pregnant woman with chickenpox can pass it on to her baby before birth
  • Can lead to pneumonia, flesh eating disease or even death
  • People who have had chicken pox are at risk of getting shingles later in life

Who should get chickenpox vaccine?

  • Children at 15 months and 4-6 years of age
  • Children who were sick with chicken pox illness before their first birthday
  • Individuals who are at high risk born before January 1, 2000
  • Individuals born on or after January 1, 2000 who have not had the chickenpox illness

What if a needle is missed?

  • Your child should get the next needle as soon as possible
  • If your child didn’t follow the routine immunization schedule a “catch-up” schedule will be recommended

What if I decide not to be immunized?

Choosing not to be immunized or delaying immunization puts you/your child at risk of getting sick with chickenpox.  This vaccine is required by law (Immunization of School Pupils Act, 2014) for school attendance. Students born on or after January 1, 2010 who are not vaccinated may be suspended from school.

Talk to your doctor/public health nurse if you:

  • Had a bad reaction to a vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine, had a serious reaction to neomycin, porcine gelatine, or have any other allergies
  • Are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • Take medications or have any diseases that lower the immune system or increase bleeding
  • Feel very sick
  • Had a vaccine within the last three months
  • Received immune globulin or blood products in the last year
  • Plan to donate blood in the next 12 weeks
  • Had chicken pox illness after age 1

Is chickenpox vaccine safe?

Yes! You may have no reaction or mild symptoms that include:

  • Redness, swelling, and pain where the needle went in
  • Fever
  • Children may become fussy or sleepier than usual

These normal reactions usually last between 12 and 24 hours.

Some people will get a chickenpox-like rash where the needle went in; usually there are less than 10 spots. Very rarely, these people may spread the vaccine virus to somebody who is not immune or has a weak immune system. Keeping the rash covered can prevent the spread.

When should I call my doctor?

Serious reactions after vaccination are very rare.  Get immediate medical help if you/your child have any unusual symptoms such as:

  • trouble breathing, swelling in your face/mouth and/or blotchy skin (hives)
  • fever above 40°C (104°F);
  • crying or fussing for more than 24 hours;
  • worsening swelling, redness, and/or pain where the needle went in;
  • unusual sleepiness (difficult to wake)

You know best.  If you notice anything that is not normal after a vaccination, check with your healthcare provider.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions.


  • Make sure to update your immunization record
  • Notify the Health Unit each time your child receives a vaccine by phone (519-753-4937 ext. 451) or online

Sources: Public Health Agency of Canada (Canadian Immunization Guide)Publicly Funded Schedules for Ontario (March 2015)

This information is for general knowledge only and does not replace professional medical advice. Please note there is a cost for immunizations that are not included in Ontario’s Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule. For more information contact us at 519-753-4937 ext. 451 or