What is chickenpox (varicella-zoster) vaccine?

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The chickenpox (varicella-zoster) vaccine is a vaccine to help prevent chickenpox, which is caused by a virus. It is similar to other types of vaccines. This particular vaccine is given as a live attenuated vaccine, usually at a child's 12-month well-child appointment and then again at the 4-year well-child appointment. The live attenuated vaccine contains a version of the virus that has been weakened in the lab so it can't cause disease. But the human body detects the virus and creates antibodies to prevent infection by the virus in the future. This particular vaccine may also help prevent shingles (zoster) later in life.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed the varicella-zoster virus vaccine for shingles in 2006. (Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus, which remains in the body after an initial chickenpox infection and may emerge many years later to cause the painful condition known as shingles.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends the varicella-zoster virus vaccine for people over age 60 to prevent shingles and to reduce shingles-associated pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.