The chickenpox vaccine protects against the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox.
The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule.
It's currently only offered on the NHS to people who are in close contact with someone who's particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications.
There are 2 chickenpox vaccines currently available. The brand names of the chickenpox vaccine are VARIVAX and VARILRIX.
Who is at risk from chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a common childhood infection. Usually, it's mild and complications are rare.
Almost all children develop immunity to chickenpox after infection, so most only catch it once. It can be more severe in adults.
But some people have a higher chance of developing serious complications from chickenpox.
- people who have weakened immune systems through illnesses such as HIV or treatments like chemotherapy
- pregnant women
Who should have the chickenpox vaccine?
The vaccine is recommended for people who are not immune to chickenpox and are in close contact with people at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch it.
For example, if you're having chemotherapy, any children you're in close contact with who are not immune to chickenpox should be given the chickenpox vaccine. This can reduce the risk of them getting the infection and spreading it to you.
The vaccine is also given to people who are not immune to chickenpox whose job puts them at risk of catching it.
- healthcare workers who are not immune to chickenpox and are in contact with patients (including cleaners, catering staff and receptionists)
- laboratory staff who are not immune to chickenpox and who may be exposed to chickenpox through their work
The vaccine is not given to people with a weakened immune system as it contains a small amount of the live virus that causes chickenpox.
The virus in the vaccine is weakened so it's safe for most people, but it could make you ill if you have a weakened immune system.
How the chickenpox vaccine works
The chickenpox vaccine is a live vaccine and contains a small amount of weakened chickenpox-causing virus.
The vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies that will help protect against chickenpox.
Read more about chickenpox vaccine side effects.
Read more about who should have the chickenpox vaccine.
How is the chickenpox vaccine given?
The vaccine is given as 2 separate injections, usually into the upper arm, 4 to 8 weeks apart.
How effective is the chickenpox vaccine?
It's been shown that 9 out of 10 children vaccinated with a single dose will develop immunity against chickenpox. Having 2 doses is recommended, as this gives an even better immune response.
The vaccination is not quite as effective after childhood. It's estimated that three-quarters of teenagers and adults who are vaccinated will become immune to chickenpox.
Read answers to common questions about the chickenpox vaccine.
Page last reviewed: 24 January 2019
Next review due: 24 January 2022