vaccine varicella zoster

vaccine varicella zoster

Vaccinations play a crucial role in preventing infectious diseases and their associated complications. One such vaccine is the varicella vaccine, which protects against the varicella-zoster virus. In this article, we will explore the varicella-zoster virus, the importance of varicella vaccination, its connection to shingles, and address common concerns surrounding the vaccine.

The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is responsible for causing two distinct diseases: varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, and herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles. Varicella primarily affects children, while shingles are more common in adults. Both diseases can significantly impact an individual’s health, making prevention through vaccination vital.Vaccine Varicella Zoster.

vaccine varicella zoster

Varicella-Zoster Virus

The Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) is a virus that belongs to the Herpesviridae family. It is responsible for causing two distinct diseases: chickenpox (varicella) and shingles (herpes zoster).

Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects children. It spreads through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters of an infected person or through respiratory droplets. The symptoms of chickenpox include a characteristic itchy rash, fever, fatigue, and sometimes mild respiratory symptoms. Most people recover from chickenpox without complications, but it can be more severe in certain populations, such as adults, pregnant women, newborns, and individuals with weakened immune systems.

After a person recovers from chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body’s nerve tissues. In some cases, usually later in life or when the immune system is weakened, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles. Shingles are characterized by a painful rash that typically affects one side of the body, along with nerve pain. The rash consists of fluid-filled blisters that eventually crust over and heal. Shingles can also lead to complications, including postherpetic neuralgia, which is persistent nerve pain that can last for months or even years.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

Vaccines are available for both chickenpox and shingles. The varicella vaccine is recommended for children and offers protection against chickenpox. The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults, especially those over 50, to reduce the risk of developing shingles or its complications.

vaccine varicella zoster

Varicella (Chickenpox)

Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a common childhood infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person.

Transmission and Symptoms

Chickenpox is transmitted through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters of an infected person or through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also spread by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

The symptoms of chickenpox typically start with a mild fever, headache, and a general feeling of malaise. Within a day or two, a characteristic rash appears, consisting of itchy red spots or blisters that cover the entire body. The rash often goes through different stages, including raised bumps, fluid-filled blisters, and scabs. New crops of blisters can continue to appear for several days.

Other common symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, and sometimes mild respiratory symptoms such as a cough or runny nose. The itching caused by the rash can be intense and may lead to scratching, increasing the risk of secondary bacterial infections.

Individuals infected with the varicella-zoster virus are contagious from 1 to 2 days before the rash appears until all the blisters have formed scabs, which usually take 5 to 7 days. It is recommended to stay home and avoid close contact with others during this period to prevent further spread of the virus.

vaccine varicella zoster

Complications and Risks

While chickenpox is typically a mild and self-limiting illness, it can sometimes lead to complications, especially in certain high-risk groups. Complications of chickenpox can include:

  1. Bacterial Infections: Scratching the itchy blisters can break the skin, creating an entry point for bacteria. This can result in secondary bacterial infections such as skin infections (cellulitis) or infections of the lungs (pneumonia) or other organs.
  2. Varicella Pneumonia: In rare cases, the varicella-zoster virus can cause lung inflammation, leading to pneumonia. This is more common in adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.
  3. Central Nervous System Complications: Although rare, the varicella-zoster virus can affect the central nervous system, resulting in complications such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or cerebellar ataxia (affecting coordination and balance).
  4. Reye’s Syndrome: This rare but severe condition primarily affects children and teenagers who have taken aspirin during a viral infection. It can cause liver and brain inflammation and may be fatal.
  5. Congenital Varicella Syndrome: If a pregnant woman becomes infected with chickenpox, there is a risk of transmission to the fetus, particularly during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. This can lead to congenital varicella syndrome, which can cause congenital disabilities and developmental issues in the baby.
vaccine varicella zoster

Certain individuals are at higher risk of complications from chickenpox, including newborns, pregnant women, adolescents, adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

To reduce the risk of complications, it is important to practice good hygiene, avoid scratching the blisters, and seek medical attention if there are signs of infection or severe symptoms. Vaccination against chickenpox is highly recommended and has effectively reduced the incidence and severity of the disease.

The Importance of Varicella Vaccination

Vaccine Effectiveness and Safety

The varicella vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent chickenpox. It significantly reduces the risk of infection, the severity of the disease, and the likelihood of complications. Vaccinated individuals who contract chickenpox usually experience milder symptoms and a quicker recovery.

Herd Immunity and Reducing Transmission

Vaccination not only protects individuals but also contributes to herd immunity. By vaccinating a significant portion of the population, the spread of the virus can be curtailed, providing indirect protection to those who cannot receive the vaccine, such as infants or individuals with certain medical conditions.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

Varicella Vaccine Schedule and Recommendations

Many countries recommend the varicella vaccine as part of routine childhood immunization schedules. The specific schedule and recommendations may vary slightly depending on the country’s immunization guidelines. Here are some general guidelines for the varicella vaccine:

  1. Age of Administration: The varicella vaccine is typically administered in two doses. The first dose is between 12 and 15 months of age, and the second is between 4 and 6 years of age. The vaccine can also be given to older children and adults who have not been vaccinated or previously had chickenpox.
  2. Catch-Up Vaccination: If a child or individual has missed the scheduled doses, catch-up vaccination can be done. This usually involves administering two doses of the vaccine at least 3 months apart.
  3. Combination Vaccines: In some countries, the varicella vaccine may be combined with other vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. This combination vaccine is known as the MMRV vaccine.
  4. High-Risk Groups: Certain individuals may be considered at higher risk for severe complications from chickenpox and may receive special recommendations for vaccination. This includes individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women who are not immune to chickenpox, and healthcare workers.Vaccine Varicella Zoster
vaccine varicella zoster

The healthcare provider or refer to the immunization guidelines specific to your country or region for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the varicella vaccine schedule and recommendations. Vaccination protects individuals from chickenpox and helps reduce the virus’s spread within communities.

Varicella-Zoster Virus Reactivation (Shingles)

The Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) causes chickenpox and can remain dormant in the body’s nerve tissues after the initial infection. Later in life, or when the immune system becomes weakened, the virus can reactivate and cause a condition known as shingles, also called herpes zoster.

When the varicella-zoster virus reactivates, it travels along the nerve fibers and leads to inflammation in the corresponding skin area. This typically results in a painful rash that usually affects a specific segment or dermatome of the body. The most commonly affected area is the trunk, but shingles can also appear on the face, limbs, or other body parts.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

The primary symptom of shingles is a painful, blistering rash that follows the path of the affected nerve. The rash usually starts as red patches and progresses to fluid-filled blisters that eventually crust over and heal. Other symptoms can accompany the rash, including tingling, burning, shooting pain, itching, sensitivity to touch, and fever.

Varicella Vaccine and Shingles Prevention

Relationship between varicella vaccine and shingles

The varicella vaccine, which protects against chickenpox, has been found to have a secondary effect in reducing the risk of developing shingles (herpes zoster) later in life. This relationship between the varicella vaccine and shingles is known as “indirect protection” or “herd immunity.”

The varicella vaccine contains a weakened form of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that stimulates the immune system to produce an immune response without causing a full-blown disease. Vaccinating children against chickenpox decreases the incidence of the virus circulating in the population.

Since the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body after a chickenpox infection, it can reactivate later in life and cause shingles. However, the reduced virus circulation in the population due to widespread vaccination helps to reduce the opportunities for reactivation and subsequent cases of shingles.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

Studies have shown that the varicella vaccine has decreased the incidence of shingles, especially in vaccinated populations. The vaccine can boost immunity against the varicella-zoster virus, reducing the likelihood of virus reactivation and the development of shingles.

Furthermore, a separate vaccine specifically targeted against shingles, known as the herpes zoster vaccine, has been developed for adults aged 50 and older. This vaccine specifically boosts immunity against the varicella-zoster virus, reducing the risk of shingles and associated complications. It is important to note that the varicella vaccine and the herpes zoster vaccine are different vaccines with distinct formulations.

While the varicella vaccine primarily protects against chickenpox, it indirectly contributes to the reduction of shingles cases by reducing the overall circulation of the varicella-zoster virus in the population. The herpes zoster vaccine, on the other hand, provides direct protection against shingles by boosting immunity against the virus in individuals aged 50 and older.

Vaccine Effectiveness in preventing shingles

The shingles vaccine, also known as the herpes zoster vaccine, is highly effective in preventing and reducing the severity of the disease in individuals who do develop it.

There are two main types of shingles vaccines available:

  1. Zoster Vaccine Live (ZVL): This live attenuated vaccine contains a weakened varicella-zoster virus (VZV) form. It is a one-time vaccine recommended for individuals aged 60 years and older.
  2. Recombinant Zoster Vaccine (RZV): This vaccine contains only specific proteins from the varicella-zoster virus and does not contain live virus. It is a two-dose vaccine series recommended for individuals 50 years and older.

Both vaccines have shown high efficacy in clinical trials:

  • Zoster Vaccine Live (ZVL): Clinical trials have demonstrated that ZVL reduces the risk of developing shingles by about 51% and reduces the risk of postherpetic neuralgia (a common complication of shingles) by about 67%. The vaccine also reduces the overall burden of illness associated with shingles.
  • Recombinant Zoster Vaccine (RZV): Clinical trials have shown that RZV is highly effective in preventing shingles, with an efficacy rate of over 90%. It also significantly reduces the risk of postherpetic neuralgia.

Both vaccines have demonstrated long-term protection, with studies showing effectiveness for at least four to five years after vaccination. Additional studies are ongoing to assess the duration of protection beyond this timeframe.

While shingles vaccines are highly effective, breakthrough cases of shingles can still occur in vaccinated individuals. However, these cases are typically milder and have a lower risk of complications than unvaccinated individuals.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

It is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider regarding the appropriate shingles vaccine and schedule based on individual age and health status. Vaccination is crucial in reducing the risk of shingles and its associated complications.

vaccine varicella zoster

Potential Side Effects of the Varicella Vaccine

The varicella vaccine, like any vaccine, can have potential side effects. However, the majority of side effects are mild and temporary. Common side effects of the varicella vaccine may include:

  1. Soreness or redness at the injection site: This is the most common side effect and typically resolves within a few days.
  2. Fever: Some individuals may experience a mild fever after receiving the vaccine. It is usually short-lived and can be managed with over-the-counter fever reducers.
  3. Rash: In rare cases, a mild rash may develop at the injection site or elsewhere on the body. This usually goes away without treatment.

Serious side effects from the varicella vaccine are extremely rare. However, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is possible as with any vaccine. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. In the event of such symptoms, immediate medical attention should be sought.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

The benefits of vaccination in preventing chickenpox and its potential complications far outweigh the risks of side effects. Vaccination helps protect individuals and contributes to the overall reduction of varicella-zoster virus circulation in the population.

Suppose you have concerns about the varicella vaccine or its potential side effects. In that case, consulting with a healthcare provider who can provide personalized information and address any questions or concerns you may have is recommended.

Addressing Vaccine Safety Concerns

Vaccine safety is a crucial consideration, and concerns are understandable. However, extensive research and rigorous testing are conducted to ensure the safety of vaccines, including the varicella vaccine. Here are some key points to address common vaccine safety concerns:

  1. Vaccine Development and Approval: Vaccines undergo a rigorous development process involving extensive laboratory testing, animal studies, and multiple phases of human clinical trials. Regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, carefully review the safety and effectiveness data before approving a vaccine.
  2. Side Effect Monitoring: After a vaccine is approved and introduced, robust systems are in place to monitor its safety. These systems continuously monitor and investigate potential side effects through post-marketing surveillance. Any reported adverse events are thoroughly evaluated to ensure the ongoing safety of the vaccine.
  3. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): VAERS is a national system in the United States for reporting adverse events following vaccination. It helps identify potential safety concerns and enables health authorities to investigate and act appropriately.
  4. Vaccine Safety Studies: Vaccine safety studies are conducted before and after a vaccine is licensed. These studies involve large populations and assess the vaccine’s safety profile, including the incidence of adverse events. Vaccine safety monitoring continues to detect rare or long-term side effects even after the vaccine is licensed.
  5. Comparative Risk Assessment: When considering the safety of vaccines, it is important to weigh the potential risks against the risks of the disease itself. Vaccines undergo thorough risk-benefit analysis to ensure their benefits in preventing diseases outweigh potential risks.
  6. Expert Consensus: Vaccine safety is assessed and monitored by independent expert advisory committees comprising scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals. These committees review the data and provide evidence-based vaccine safety and effectiveness recommendations.
vaccine varicella zoster

It is important to rely on credible sources of information, such as reputable health organizations and healthcare professionals, for accurate and up-to-date information about vaccine safety. They can address specific concerns and provide personalized guidance based on individual health conditions.

Vaccines have been critical in preventing and controlling numerous diseases, saving countless lives. They undergo rigorous testing and monitoring to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

How long is the varicella-zoster vaccine?

The duration of protection provided by the varicella-zoster vaccine, also known as the shingles or herpes zoster vaccine, can vary. Available data suggest that the vaccine offers long-lasting protection, but the exact duration of immunity is still being studied.

Clinical trials have shown that the shingles vaccine provides a high level of protection against shingles for at least four to five years after vaccination. This means vaccinated individuals have a significantly reduced risk of developing shingles during this period.

Ongoing studies are being conducted to determine the duration of protection beyond the initial four to five years. These studies involve monitoring vaccinated individuals over an extended period to assess vaccine effectiveness and measure any decline in protection over time.

While the current data suggest long-lasting protection, it is essential to note that the duration of immunity may vary among individuals. Some individuals may experience a gradual decline in protection over time, while others may maintain a higher level of immunity for a longer duration.

Following the vaccination schedule and receiving recommended booster doses if they become available is recommended to ensure continued protection. Additionally, staying informed about updates from healthcare authorities and discussing individual circumstances with a healthcare provider can help determine the best course of action regarding the varicella-zoster vaccine.

Is zoster vaccine 2 or 3 doses?

The zoster vaccine, also known as the shingles vaccine or herpes zoster vaccine, is typically administered in either two or three doses, depending on the specific vaccine formulation used.

  1. Zoster Vaccine Live (ZVL): This live attenuated vaccine is given as a single dose. It is recommended for individuals aged 60 years and older. This vaccine is administered subcutaneously (under the skin).
  2. Recombinant Zoster Vaccine (RZV): This vaccine contains specific proteins from the varicella-zoster virus and does not contain live virus. RZV is given in two doses, usually separated by 2 to 6 months. It is recommended for individuals aged 50 years and older. Both doses of RZV are necessary to complete the vaccination series. This vaccine is administered intramuscularly (into the muscle).

The specific dosing recommendations provided by healthcare professionals or the immunization guidelines of your country or region. These guidelines consider age, overall health, and previous vaccination history.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

Suppose you have any questions or concerns about the dosing schedule for the zoster vaccine. In that case, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider who can provide you with accurate and personalized information based on your circumstances.

What age can varicella be given?

The varicella vaccine, also known as the chickenpox vaccine, is recommended for children and adults who have not had or been vaccinated against it.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children receive two doses of the varicella vaccine: the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age. Children who have received one vaccine can still receive the second dose to ensure adequate protection against chickenpox.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

The CDC recommends two doses administered 4 to 8 weeks apart for adults who have not had chickenpox or been vaccinated. This is especially recommended for adults at higher risk of exposure to the virus, such as healthcare workers or those living in close quarters with someone who has chickenpox.

The specific vaccination guidelines may vary by country or region. It’s best to consult with a healthcare provider or check the immunization guidelines of your country or region for more information on when and how to receive the varicella vaccine.

vaccine varicella zoster


Varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It primarily affects children but can also occur in adults who have not been previously infected or vaccinated. The symptoms of chickenpox include a characteristic itchy rash, fever, and general discomfort.

While chickenpox is usually a mild illness, it can lead to complications, especially in certain high-risk groups. These complications may include bacterial skin infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, and rare but serious conditions like Reye’s syndrome.

To prevent chickenpox and its potential complications, vaccination is highly recommended. The varicella vaccine is safe and effective and is typically administered in routine childhood immunization schedules. Vaccination not only protects individuals from chickenpox but also contributes to the reduction of the varicella-zoster virus circulation in the population.Vaccine Varicella Zoster

Additionally, the varicella vaccine has the added benefit of indirectly reducing the risk of shingles, a painful condition caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus later in life. A separate shingles vaccine is available for individuals aged 50 and older to provide direct protection against shingles.

Consult with healthcare providers or refer to official immunization guidelines for specific recommendations regarding varicella and shingles vaccines based on individual age, health status, and other relevant factors.

Vaccination plays a crucial role in preventing and controlling infectious diseases, and a varicella vaccine is a valuable tool in reducing the burden of chickenpox and its associated complications. By staying informed and following recommended vaccination schedules, we can help protect ourselves and our communities from varicella and its potential consequences.


Can the vaccine varicella zoster give me chickenpox or shingles?

No. The vaccine varicella zoster cannot give you chickenpox or shingles. However, it is possible to still get chickenpox or shingles even after being vaccinated, but the symptoms will be milder than if you had not been vaccinated.

Is the vaccine varicella zoster effective?

Yes. The vaccine varicella zoster is highly effective at preventing both chickenpox and shingles.

Can I get the varicella-zoster vaccine if I already have chickenpox?

Yes. Even if you have had chickenpox in the past, it is still recommended that you get the vaccine varicella-zoster to help prevent shingles.

Are there any contraindications for the vaccine varicella zoster?

Yes. The vaccine varicella zoster is not recommended for individuals with a weakened immune system, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressive medications. It is important to consult your healthcare provider to determine if the vaccine suits you.

Can I get the vaccine for varicella zoster if I am pregnant?

No. The vaccine varicella zoster is not recommended for pregnant women. If you are planning to become pregnant, it is recommended to get vaccinated before conception.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *