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This service is for children over 9 months who have not had chickenpox in the past. The vaccine is given by injection into the upper arm or upper leg. A course of two separate doses is given four to eight weeks apart. This vaccination is a private service, not paid for by the NHS. Before your Pharmacist can give the Varicella vaccine, an assessment questionnaire needs to be completed.

Chickenpox is a common childhood infection. Almost all children develop immunity to chickenpox after infection, so most only catch it once. The condition is usually mild and lasts for between five and ten days. However, in some cases it can cause serious problems such as pneumonia, swelling of the brain and skin infections. Chickenpox can lead to more serious complications involving the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) in children. The most common complication is where the blisters become infected with bacteria. If blisters become infected, the risk of a systemic infection increases and antibiotics may be needed. Scarring of the skin where blisters have erupted is also a risk. The disease can be more severe in adults.

Certain groups of people, however, are at greater risk of serious complications from chickenpox. These include: *people who have weakened immune systems through illnesses such as HIV or treatments like chemotherapy; *pregnant women – chickenpox can be very serious for an unborn baby when a pregnant woman catches the infection. It can cause a range of serious birth defects, as well as severe disease in the baby when it is born.

Varivax is a live vaccine, which means it does contain living virus but these have been weakened so that the infection does not become virulent (it cannot overcome the body’s defence mechanisms). The vaccine protects against infection without causing a full chickenpox infection and associated symptoms.

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How effective is the Chickenpox (Varivax) vaccine?


Studies in infants, toddlers and adolescents have shown Bexsero vaccine will cover approximately 88% of meningitis B circulating in the UK. The actual proportion of cases prevented will depend on other things too, including how widely the vaccine is offered and taken up, whether it prevents the bacteria from being carried and passed on as well as protecting from disease, how long protection lasts, and whether it works sufficiently well in all age groups. How long protection last is not yet known, although it is likely to be a number of years. There are no data on the use of Bexsero in adults above 50 years of age or in patients with chronic medical conditions or with weakened immunity. If you or your child have weakened immunity (for example, due to the use of immunosuppressive medications, or HIV infection, or hereditary defects of the body’s natural defence system), it is possible that the effectiveness of Bexsero will be reduced.

Will I or my child be entitled to receive this vaccine free on the NHS?


Chickenpox vaccination is not routinely available on the NHS, but it may be available for adults and children in regular or close contact with someone who has a weakened immune system or is at risk of serious illness if they catch chickenpox. Vaccination protects the person at risk of catching chickenpox through close contact. The types of people who can have a chickenpox vaccination on the NHS include: non-immune healthcare workers, close relatives and carers (who have not previously had chickenpox) of people who are unwell.

How much will the vaccine cost from my pharmacy?


The charge for this service from Will Chemists is £130. This is the total amount for both doses – no further administration or consultation fees apply.

What are the side effects and is the vaccine safe?


As with all drugs, vaccines can cause side effects. Vaccine side effects may include soreness/redness/swelling or hardness of skin at the injection site, fever, lack of appetite, muscle aches, irritability, sleepiness and rashes. In extensive studies no serious medical complications were reported and rates of fever and local reactions were similar to that of other routine immunisations. Severe allergic reactions to current vaccines is very rare. Food allergies are not a reason to avoid vaccination. People often worry that eczema, asthma, epilepsy and a family history of reactions to vaccinations are a reason to avoid vaccinations, but this is not true. As Varivax is a live vaccine, there is a chance that chickenpox could be passed onto others. The person who has received Varivax should attempt to avoid close contact with susceptible high risk individuals for up to 6 weeks following vaccination. E.g. individuals with a weakened immune system, pregnant women who have never had varicella and newborn babies whose mothers have never had varicella.

Varicella vaccine is a routine vaccination in around 33 other countries including Germany and the US.

Can Varivax be given at the same time as other routine vaccines?


Yes, except MMR vaccine. Varivax can be given at the same time as some other vaccinations. Although we recommend waiting at least 4 weeks if another vaccine has been given recently. Speak to your pharmacist for more advice surrounding this.

Further information:
NHS Choices Chickenpox pages: