The new Australian immunisation guidelines, to be released shortly, now recommend a single vaccination at 18 months for all children. A single dose of vaccine is also advised for children between the ages of 10 and 13 years who have not had the infection.
Although chickenpox is usually a mild disease in healthy children, it can cause serious complications such as septicaemia (blood poisoning) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
The vaccine can also be given to children at other ages. Young children commencing childcare or school who have not yet been vaccinated, are especially at-risk of catching the infection, which is highly contagious.
Vaccination is also recommended for adults. Adult infection is usually more serious and complications are more likely.
One special adult group requiring vaccination is women planning pregnancy. Chickenpox in pregnancy can cause congenital malformations in the baby and a serious illness in the mother.
The vaccine can also be used to prevent chickenpox after exposure to the infection. It should be given within 3 days (preferably) and up to 5 days if necessary.
A safe and effective vaccine
A single dose of chickenpox vaccine gives a high level of protection in most younger children. From the age of 14 years, 2 shots are required, 1 to 2 months apart.
The vaccine is well tolerated and reactions are generally mild. Side effects may include a fever and rash, as well as pain and redness at the injection site. Serious side effects are rare.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.