FAQs on the varicella vaccine and titers
Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral disease. Find out how to protect yourself and your family with the varicella vaccine and varicella titer testing.
The varicella vaccine, also known as the chickenpox vaccine, is a vaccine that helps protect against the chickenpox virus. It’s usually given in two doses, with the first dose administered to children between the ages of 12 and 15 months and the second dose given between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
The vaccine is highly effective in preventing chickenpox and has been shown to reduce the severity of the disease in those who still contract it after being vaccinated. Here are frequently asked questions about the varicella vaccine and varicella titers.
What is varicella?
Most commonly known as chickenpox, varicella is a highly contagious viral disease. Until 1995, when the varicella vaccine was implemented in the US, chickenpox was a common illness among kids under 12 years old.
The first symptoms include:
- sore throat
- stomach ache
- A red, itchy skin rash that turns into blisters
How and when is the varicella vaccine given?
Since 1995, the varicella vaccine has become one of the many routine immunizations children receive in the first years of life.
Children receive two doses of the varicella vaccine. The first dose is given at 12 to 15 months of age. The second dose is given before the start of kindergarten at 4 to 6 years of age.
The varicella vaccine significantly reduces the chances of getting chickenpox. If a vaccinated child does get chickenpox, it tends to be much milder and last for a shorter period of time than in those who are not immunized.
Do adults need the varicella vaccine?
Some adults who have not been vaccinated or have not had chickenpox may need to be vaccinated. Adolescents and adults 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox or been immunized against it should get two doses, at least 28 days apart.
Because chickenpox is highly contagious, the varicella shot is especially important if you’re a:
- Healthcare professional
- Caregiver for others with weakened immune systems, such as nursing home personnel
- Teacher or childcare worker
- College student
- Inmates or staff of a correctional institution
- Military personnel
- Non-pregnant woman of child-bearing age
- A person planning to travel abroad
Are there any side effects of the varicella vaccine?
Like all vaccines, the varicella vaccine can cause side effects, but these are usually mild and temporary. Common side effects include pain and redness at the injection site, as well as a low-grade fever.
What is a varicella titer?
A varicella titer is a blood test that measures the level of immunity to the chickenpox virus. The test measures the number of antibodies present in the blood, which indicates whether an individual has been previously infected with the virus or has been vaccinated against it.
Why is a varicella titer important?
A varicella titer is important because it can verify an individual’s immunity to the chickenpox virus. This is especially important for healthcare workers, teachers, and other people who work with children, as well as international travelers who are going to areas where chickenpox is common.
Who should get a varicella titer test?
People who are unsure of their chickenpox immunity, including healthcare workers, teachers, and other people who work with children, as well as international travelers who are going to areas where chickenpox is common, should consider getting a varicella titer test.
How is a varicella titer test performed?
A varicella titer test is performed by drawing a blood sample and testing it for the presence of chickenpox antibodies.
What do the results of a varicella titer test mean?
If the results of a varicella titer test show that an individual has a high level of antibodies to the chickenpox virus, it’s likely that they’re immune to the virus. If the results are negative, it may mean that the individual is not immune to chickenpox and should consider getting vaccinated.
Is a varicella titer test reliable?
Yes, a varicella titer test is a reliable way to verify immunity to the chickenpox virus. However, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional to interpret the results and make recommendations based on an individual’s specific situation.
How often should a varicella titer test be performed?
It’s not necessary to perform a varicella titer test regularly. A healthcare professional can determine the appropriate timing for a titer test based on an individual’s specific situation and exposure risk.