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Chickenpox vaccine

The chickenpox vaccine helps to protect you against the chickenpox (varicella). Chickenpox can cause fever, irritability, fluid filled blisters on the skin numbering from 200 to 500, meningitis, bacterial skin infection and complications in the baby if a woman has chickenpox during pregnancy.

The vaccine contains a small amount of the live virus.

Some people may not be able to receive a live vaccine for medical reasons, please discuss with your doctor or immunisation provider for further information.

Chickenpox vaccine also comes in a combination form called measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) combination.

Vaccine recommendations

The chickenpox vaccine is free for children at 18 months as part of the National Immunisation Program and is given in a combination with measles, mumps and rubella.

Adolescents in high school receive the single chickenpox vaccine as part the School Immunisation Program.

The chickenpox vaccine is also recommended if you are not vaccinated or have not been medically diagnosed with chickenpox and you are:

  • in contact with others with an impaired immunity, for example on chemotherapy
  • have or work with young children
  • planning to get pregnant
  • in a high risk occupation.

How the vaccine is given

Chickenpox vaccine is given as an injection into the top of the arm.

Possible side effects

Like any medications, the chickenpox vaccine can have some minor and short lasting side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • a low grade fever of 37 to 38 degrees Celsius
  • pain, redness and swelling where you were immunised.

Uncommon side effects may include a rash of two to five fluid filled blisters at the injection occurring five to 26 days after the vaccination. This rash may also cover other areas of the body. If the rash occurs, it should last for less than one week.

Very rarely, you may experience:

  • a severe allergic reaction
  • a lower blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
  • impaired ability to coordinate movement (ataxia)
  • inflammation of the brain (encephalitis),

If you are concerned or worried, seek further advice from your doctor, immunisation provider, SA Health’s Immunisation Section or healthdirect Australia.

Any unexpected event following immunisation should be reported to SA Health.

Reducing the side effects

Many of the common side effects can be reduced by:

  • drinking extra fluids
  • taking paracetamol as per the instructions on the packet/bottle
  • not overdressing if you are hot.

Speak to your local pharmacist about suitable lotions you can purchase to reduce the itchiness of the rash.

Where to get immunised

To receive the vaccine contact your doctor, local council, community health centre or Aboriginal health centre to arrange an appointment. 

For further information on immunisation providers, see the Immunisation services page.

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