Can Adults Be Vaccinated for Chickenpox?

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

I never had chickenpox as a kid. This wasn't a problem until recently. I have a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old in school, and there is currently a spate of chickenpox going through their school. My kids have their immunizations, but should I get one? Can adults be vaccinated for chickenpox?

Doctor's response

Varicella is the virus that causes chickenpox. While the disease is usually self-limited, it can cause death and permanent injury. The groups at greatest risk are infants, people over 15 years of age, and immunocompromised people. The vaccine came out in the mid-1990s and unfortunately does not offer complete protection, but even those who get the disease after vaccination have a milder form of the condition. Prior to use of the vaccine, hundreds of children died every year from chickenpox. It is recommended that all adolescents and adults without documented evidence of chickenpox or previous vaccination receive the two-dose series.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are those diseases for which there is a shot that helps the immune system prepare for an infection. A person develops immunity after he or she has received a vaccine and responded to it. When a vaccinated person is exposed to a virus (for example, hepatitis B) or bacteria (for example, diphtheria), his or her body is able to destroy the virus or bacteria and prevent the disease. No vaccine is perfect, and some people who receive a vaccine can still get the disease. This is why it is important for everyone to get the vaccine. This gives the community what experts call "herd" immunity and means that, basically, there are very few people who could serve as a reservoir for the disease. Herd immunity prevents severe outbreaks of diseases.

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REFERENCE:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth through 6 years Old: By Age United States, 2017." Feb. 6, 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child-easyread.html>.

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Reviewed on 10/9/2018