Welcome to the Vaccines and Immunizations website.
Skip directly to the search box, site navigation, or content.

Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Vaccines & Immunizations

Vaccines and Preventable Diseases:

Varicella (chickenpox) In-Short


A disease caused by infection with the varicella zoster virus, which causes fever and an itchy rash

top of page


A skin rash of blister-like lesions, covering the body but usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk. Most, but not all, infected individuals have fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears. If exposed, persons who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash (sometimes involving only a few red bumps that look similar to insect bites) and mild or no fever.

top of page


Bacterial infection of the skin, swelling of the brain, and pneumonia. Adolescents and adults are more at risk for severe disease.

top of page


Spread by coughing and sneezing (highly contagious), by direct contact, and by aerosolization of virus from skin lesions.

top of page


Varicella vaccine can prevent this disease. Currently, two doses of vaccine are recommended for children, adolescents, and adults.

top of page

Who Needs to be Vaccinated?


All children and adults without evidence of immunity to varicella need the vaccine. Evidence of immunity includes any of the following:

  • Documentation of two doses of varicella vaccine
  • Blood tests that show you are immune to varicella or laboratory confirmation of prior disease
  • Born in the United States before 1980, excluding health-care workers, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons.  These individuals need to meet one of the other criteria for evidence of immunity.  
  • Receipt from a healthcare provider of a) a diagnosis of chickenpox or b) verification of a history of chickenpox
  • Receipt from a healthcare provider of a) a diagnosis of herpes zoster (shingles), or b) verification of a history of herpes zoster (shingles).

You do NOT need the chickenpox vaccine, if you meet any of the above criteria for evidence of immunity.

For additional details, consult the Chickenpox Vaccine Information Statement Adobe Acrobat print-friendly PDF file. (2 pages) (text-only)Rich Text Format Screen-Reader Device Friendly file. and either the Child or the Adult Immunization Schedule.

Healthcare Personnel Vaccination Recommendations Adobe Acrobat print-friendly PDF file (exit) NEw july 28

top of page

 Return to main Varicella Vaccination page

This page last modified on September 24, 2008
Content last reviewed on June 12, 2007
Content Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

Quick Links


Safer Healthier People

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333, U.S.A
Public Inquiries: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636); 1-888-232-6348 (TTY)

Vaccines and Immunizations