Varivax

a vaccine used to prevent of chicken pox in individuals 12 months of age and older. Avoid giving aspirin or aspirin-containing products to children for 6 weeks after getting vaccine.

Varivax Overview

Reviewed: July 31, 2015
Updated: 

Varivax is a vaccine used for the prevention of varicella (chicken pox) in individuals 12 months of age and older.

Varivax contains a weakened form of chickenpox virus. Varivax works by helping the immune system protect you or your child from getting chickenpox.

Varivax is a vaccine given as a shot just under the skin (subcutaneous) of the upper arm or thigh.

Common side effects of Varivax include pain, swelling, itching, or redness at the site of the shot.

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Uses of Varivax

Varivax is a vaccine used for the prevention of varicella (chicken pox) in individuals 12 months of age and older.

Varivax does not treat chickenpox once you or your child have it.

Manufacturer

Varicella, Live Attenuated

For more information on this medication choose from the list of selections below.

Varivax Drug Class

Varivax is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Varivax

Serious side effects have been reported with Varivax. See "Varivax Precautions" section.

Common side effects include:

  • fever
  • pain, swelling, itching, or redness at the site of the shot
  • chickenpox-like rash on the body or at the site of the shot
  • irritability

Less common side effects include:

  • tingling of the skin
  • shingles

This is not a complete list of Varivax side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

You may also report these events to Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., at 1-877-888-4231, or directly to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The VAERS toll-free number is 1-800-822-7967 or report online to www.vaers.hhs.gov.

Varivax Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take/receive:

  • immunoglobulins and transfusions (defer vaccination for at least 5 months following blood or plasma transfusions or administration of immunoglobulin)
  • salicylates such as aspirin or aspirin-containing products. Avoid use of salicylates (aspirin) or salicylate-containing products in children and adolescents 12 months through 17 years of age for six weeks following vaccination with Varivax because of the association of Reye syndrome.
  • tuberculin skin testing. Tuberculin skin testing, with tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD), may be performed before Varivax is administered or on the same day, or 6 weeks following vaccination with Varivax.
  • high doses of steroids by mouth or in a shot

This is not a complete list of Varivax drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information. 

Varivax Precautions

Serious side effects have been reported with Varivax including the following:

  • allergic reaction. Tell your healthcare professional if you have any of the following problems within a short time after getting Varivax:

    • shortness of breath or wheezing
    • rash or hives
  • bruising more easily than normal
  • red or purple, flat, pinhead spots under the skin
  • severe paleness
  • difficulty walking
  • severe skin disorders and skin infections
  • chickenpox

Rarely, swelling of the brain, stroke, inflammation of the lungs (known as pneumonia or pneumonitis), and seizures with or without a fever have been reported. It is unclear if these are related to the vaccine.

Avoid use of salicylates (aspirin) or salicylate-containing products in children and adolescents 12 months through 17 years of age for six weeks following vaccination with Varivax because of the association of Reye syndrome.

Do not get vaccinated with Varivax for at least 5 months following blood or plasma transfusions or administration of immunoglobulin. 

If you have a family history of congenital or hereditary immunodeficiency, your doctor will evaluate the patient's immune status before Varivax will be given to ensure you are immunocompetent.

It is rare, but possible, that once you have the vaccine, you could spread the chickenpox virus to others. Whenever possible, try to avoid contact with certain groups of people for up to six weeks after receiving the vaccine. This is because the disease for these groups may be quite serious. These groups include:

  • people who have a weakened immune system.
  • pregnant women who have never had chickenpox.
  • newborn babies whose mothers have never had chickenpox.
  • newborn babies born at less than 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Tell your doctor or healthcare professional if you or your child expect to have contact with someone who falls into one of these groups.

Varivax may not protect everyone who gets it.

Varivax does not treat chickenpox once you or your child have it.

Do not take Varivax if you or your child:

  • are allergic to any of its ingredients. (This includes gelatin or neomycin)
  • have a weakened immune system, such as an immune deficiency, an inherited immune disorder, leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV/AIDS.
  • take high doses of steroids by mouth or in a shot.
  • have active tuberculosis that is not treated.
  • have a fever.
  • are pregnant or plan to get pregnant within the next three months.

Varivax Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of Varivax, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving this medication. 

Inform MD

Tell your healthcare professional if you or your child:

  • have or have had any medical problems
  • have received blood or plasma transfusions or human serum globulin within the last 5 months
  • have any allergies. (This includes allergies to neomycin or gelatin)
  • had an allergic reaction to any other vaccine
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant within the next three months
  • are breast-feeding

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Varivax and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Do not receive Varivax if you are pregnant. The possible effects of the vaccine on development of the unborn baby are unknown. Pregnancy should be avoided for 3 months following vaccination with Varivax.

To report suspected adverse reactions or exposure during pregnancy or within three months prior to conception, contact Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., at 1-877-888-4231 or VAERS at 1-800-822-7967 or www.vaers.hhs.gov.

Varivax and Lactation

Tell your doctor is you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. 

It is not known if Varivax crosses into human milk. Because some vaccines can cross into human milk and becuase of the possibility for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants with use of this vaccine, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or stop the use of this vaccine. Your doctor and you will decide if the benefits outweigh the risk of using Varivax. 

Varivax Usage

This vaccine will be administered by a healthcare professional. 

  • Varivax is a vaccine given as a shot just under the skin (subcutaneous) of the upper arm or thigh.
  • Your doctor or healthcare professional will use the official recommendations to decide the number of shots needed and when to get them.
  • If a dose is missed, your healthcare professional will let you know when you should have it.

Varivax Dosage

Varivax is given as a shot under the skin to people who are 12 months old or older.

If your child is 12 months to 12 years old and your doctor gives a second dose, the second dose must be given at least 3 months after the first shot.

A second dose should be given to those who first get the vaccine when they are 13 years old or older. This second dose should be given 4 to 8 weeks after the first dose.

Varivax Overdose

Varivax is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting. It is unlikely that an overdose will occur in this setting. However, if overdoes is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.