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Varicella Virus Vaccine Live (Systemic)

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Varicella Virus Vaccine Live (Systemic)

US Brand Names

• Varivax


Varicella (var-i-SEL-ah) virus vaccine live is an immunizing agent used to prevent infection by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The vaccine works by causing your body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the virus.

Varicella (commonly known as chickenpox) is an infection that is easily spread from one person to another. Chickenpox is usually a mild infection but sometimes it can cause serious problems, such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, and a rare disease called Reye's syndrome.

Immunization against chickenpox is recommended for anyone 12 months of age and older who has not had chickenpox. Immunization against chickenpox is not recommended for infants younger than 12 months of age.

You can be considered to be immune to chickenpox only if you have received the right number of varicella vaccine doses (1 dose if you are between 12 months and 12 years of age; or 2 doses if you are 13 years of age or older). You also are considered to be immune if you have a doctor's diagnosis of a previous chickenpox infection or if you have had a blood test showing that you are immune to varicella.

This vaccine is to be administered only by or under the supervision of your doctor or other health care professional. It is available in the following dosage form:


    • Injection (U.S.)

Before Receiving This Vaccine

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For varicella virus vaccine live, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to varicella virus vaccine live or to any form of the antibiotic neomycin. Also tell your health care professional if you are allergic to any other substances, such as gelatin.


Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if you intend to become pregnant within 1 month after receiving this vaccine. Studies on effects in pregnancy have not been done in either humans or animals. It is not known whether varicella vaccine can harm the fetus; however, natural varicella infection can sometimes cause birth defects. Pregnancy should be avoided for 3 months after you get the varicella virus vaccine live.


It is not known whether varicella vaccine virus passes into breast milk. Although most medicines pass into breast milk in small amounts, many of them may be used safely while breast-feeding. Mothers who receive this vaccine and who wish to breast-feed should discuss this with their doctor.


Varicella virus vaccine live is not recommended for use in infants up to 12 months of age. Varicella virus vaccine live has been tested in children 1 year of age and older and, in effective doses, has not been shown to cause different side effects or problems than it may cause in adults.

Older adults

Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults or if they cause different side effects or problems in older people. There is no specific information comparing use of varicella virus vaccine live in the elderly with use in other age groups.

Other medicines

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Before you receive varicella virus vaccine, it is especially important that your health care professional know if you have received any of the following:

    • Treatment with x-rays or cancer medicines-Treatment may increase the action of the vaccine, causing an increase in vaccine side effects, or treatment may interfere with the useful effect of the vaccine

Other medical problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of varicella virus vaccine live. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

    • Febrile illness-The symptoms of the condition may be confused with the possible side effects of the vaccine

    • Immune deficiency condition (or family history of)-This condition may increase the chance and severity of side effects of the vaccine and/or may decrease the useful effects of the vaccine

    • Tuberculosis-Natural varicella infection (chickenpox) may make this condition worse; however, there have been no reports of the vaccine causing tuberculosis to become worse



The dose of varicella virus vaccine live will be different for different patients. The following information includes only the average doses of varicella virus vaccine live.

    • For injection dosage form:

      o For prevention of varicella (chickenpox):

        Adults and children 13 years of age and older-One dose injected under the skin, followed by a second dose four to eight weeks later.

        Children 12 months to 12 years of age-One dose injected under the skin.

        Children younger than 12 months of age-Use is not recommended.

Precautions After Receiving This Vaccine

Do not become pregnant for 3 months after receiving varicella virus vaccine live without first checking with your doctor .

Tell your doctor that you have received this vaccine:

    • If you are to receive blood transfusions or other blood products within 5 months of receiving this vaccine.

    • If you are to receive varicella-zoster immune globulin (VZIG) or other immune globulins within 2 months after receiving this vaccine.

    • If you are to receive any other live virus vaccines within 1 month of receiving this vaccine.

Do not take aspirin or aspirin products for 6 weeks after receiving this vaccine.

Side Effects

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

More common

Fever over 39 C (102 F).

Less common

Varicella-like skin rash.


Black, tarry stools; blood in urine or stools; confusion; difficulty in breathing or swallowing; hives; irritability; itching, especially of feet or hands; muscle or joint pain; pinpoint red spots on skin; reddening of skin, especially around ears; severe or continuing headache; stiff neck; swelling of eyes, face, or inside of nose; swelling of glands in neck; unusual bleeding or bruising; unusual tiredness or weakness, sudden and severe; vomiting.

Other side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. However, check with your doctor if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome:

More common

Fever of 37.7 C (100 F) or higher but not above 39 C (102 F); pain, redness or soreness at injection site.

Less common

Abdominal pain; common cold; congestion; cough; diarrhea; nausea; sore throat.

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your doctor.

December 01, 1998

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