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Safety & Prevention

Chickenpox Vaccine: Frequently Asked Questions

Is chicken pox vaccine really necessary?

While most people have survived chickenpox (varicella), before the vaccine, about 12,000 people were hospitalized for chickenpox every year. About 100 people died from the disease. The chickenpox vaccine protects most children from getting chickenpox. Since the vaccine was licensed in 1995, millions of doses have been given to children in the United States. Many studies show the vaccine is safe and effective. Research is being done to see how long protection from the vaccine lasts, and recently a booster dose at 4-6 years of age was added to the recommended schedule.

I got chickenpox and was fine. Why should my child receive the Varicella vaccine?

Chickenpox is a common childhood disease. It is usually mild, but sometimes can be very serious. Complications can include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis (brain disease)
  • “Flesh-eating” bacterial infection
  • Death

If an immunized person gets chickenpox, the illness will be much milder than in a non-immunized person. Varicella vaccine protects children now and as adults, when they are more likely to die from chickenpox and its complications. It cuts down on days that a child might be absent from school or that a parent will have to miss work. There are only a few cases of disease today, but without vaccination that number will rise.

Will taking my child to a chickenpox party give her better immunity than the vaccine?

Exposing children to the disease does not guarantee they will get it, nor that they will have a mild case. No one can predict which child will have a life-threatening reaction to the disease. While “natural immunity” does tend to be better than “vaccine-induced immunity,” the high price of natural immunity is not a risk worth taking when a safe vaccine is available and effective.

Last Updated
Frequently Asked Questions: Chickenpox Vaccine (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 6/11)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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