Did you know?

Adults are 25 times more likely to die from chickenpox than children.

Nathan's Story

Many people are unaware of how serious chickenpox can actually be. Hear Nathan's story from his Mom about the stroke he suffered after becoming infected with chickenpox disease. (5 min)

About the vaccine

The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine protects against chickenpox, a very uncomfortable and sometimes serious disease.

Vaccines are safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get chickenpox. 

Who should get the vaccine? 

The chickenpox vaccine is provided free in BC.  It is given to children as a series of 2 doses. The first dose is given at 12 months of age; a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. For children who also need protection against measles, mumps or rubella, the 2nd dose can be given as the combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine.

The chickenpox vaccine is also provided to students in grade 6 who have not received 2 doses of the vaccine. Most grade 6 students would have received 1 dose of chickenpox vaccine on or shortly after their 1st birthday and will only need 1 more dose of vaccine. Grade 6 students who have never received the vaccine should get 2 doses at least 3 months apart.

The vaccine is also available as a series of 2 doses to people 13 years of age or older who have not been immunized or do not have evidence of immunity to chickenpox. The second dose is given 6 weeks after the first dose.

People who had chickenpox before their 1st birthday should still get the vaccine as they may not have developed a long lasting immunity and could get chickenpox again. However, it is not necessary for those who had chickenpox or shingles (diagnosed by a health care provider for those born in 2004 or later) at 1 year of age or older to get the vaccine.

Vaccines are available from public health units, doctors' offices and pharmacies (for people 5 years of age and older). Services vary across BC.

For more information about the chickenpox vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC files:

About the disease

  • Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus
  • The average child will have about 350 blisters
  • Chickenpox is spread by coughing, sneezing and saliva and is highly contagious. It can also be spread through contact with the fluid from chickenpox blisters
  • Complications include pneumonia (lung infection) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and bacterial infections of the skin. Encephalitis can lead to convulsions, deafness or brain damage
  • Chickenpox may be more severe in teenagers and adults
  • About 1 in 3,000 adults will die from the infection
  • More Facts About Chickenpox (44a)

Photo courtesy of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention