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Can chickenpox be prevented with a vaccine?
Most people develop lifetime immunity to chickenpox after the first occurrence and never experience it again. But the virus can sometimes resurface later in life as shingles (zoster). The current aim in the U.S. and many other countries is to achieve universal (or nearly universal) immunization of children with the chickenpox vaccine. The vaccination requires only two shots. The first vaccination is given at about 1 year of age, and the second (booster) is given at 4 years of age. If an older person has not had chickenpox, the shot may be given at any time. There have been few significant adverse reactions to the chickenpox vaccine. All children, except those with a compromised immune system, should have the vaccination. The vaccine against varicella-zoster virus that causes chicken pox is the most commonly refused childhood vaccine; both parents and health care professionals view chicken pox as the least severe vaccine-preventable disease. Prior to varicella vaccine licensure in 1995, however, there were 4 million cases of chickenpox infection annually, resulting in more than 10,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths per year in the United States. Since licensure, universal immunization has reduced by 80 percent annual morbidity, mortality and hospitalizations from chicken pox.
Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease
Marin, M., H.C. Meissner, and J.F. Seward. "Varicella Prevention in the United States: A Review of Successes and Challenges." Pediatrics 122.3 Sept. 1, 2008: e744-e751.
Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics