FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
I had chickenpox as a child and was fine, so why should I vaccinate my child?
Many children get through chickenpox with just a few spots. However, some have a terrible time with hundreds of spots that can cause lifelong scarring.1 Unfortunately, several hundred children each year in NZ experience severe cases of chickenpox, with complications that require hospitalisation.2 These include:
- severe skin infections
In serious cases, chickenpox can result in death.3,4
Can I get chickenpox if I have been vaccinated?
A small percentage of people vaccinated for chickenpox may still experience the illness. However, it is likely to be less severe in terms of the symptoms and days needed to recover.5
One dose is 86-94% effective against moderate to severe chickenpox, and 57-72% effective against mild chickenpox. This means that children are very unlikely to get severe cases that result in hospitalisations, but some may get very mild chickenpox.5
For optimal protection you can choose to purchase a second dose, which gives 97-100% protection against getting moderate to severe chickenpox.4 Children can be vaccinated with Varilrix from 9 months of age, and the second dose can be given before or after the funded dose so long as there is at least a 6 week interval between doses.5
Do I still need to immunise my children if other children around them are immunised?
It is important that ≥ 95% of the 15 month olds are immunised to help prevent chickenpox circulating in the community and to protect those at particularly high risk of the severe complications of varicella who are not well enough to be vaccinated.6
Could my child still get chickenpox after they have been vaccinated?
A few people may experience a mild case of chickenpox but usually this means only a few spots.14
A second dose of Varilrix can be purchased and given a minimum of 6 weeks before or after the funded dose at the 15 month visit.5,21
What if my child has received one dose of varicella vaccine before 15 months of age?
If your child has received one dose of purchased varicella vaccine before 15 months of age, a second dose of Varilrix will still be funded at the 15-month visit and can be given from 6 weeks after the first dose for optimal protection.5
Is it better to have my child exposed naturally to chickenpox or to vaccinate?
Exposing your child to others with chickenpox is not a guarantee that they will become infected or that they’ll get a mild case of chickenpox.4 In fact, exposing them to chickenpox puts them at risk of experiencing the severe complications listed above. Vaccination is a well-tolerated and proven way to protect against chickenpox.3,5
What if my child has already been exposed to chickenpox at daycare, kindergarten or school?
If you or your child has been exposed to someone with chickenpox, getting vaccinated within 72 hours of exposure can help prevent chickenpox or at least make the illness milder if they do catch it. You will need to purchase the vaccine unless this exposure happens to coincide with the 15 month immunisation visit where the vaccine is free of charge.5
Will the chickenpox vaccine protect my child against shingles?
Vaccination with the chickenpox vaccine is not intended to protect against shingles.
Can I have the chickenpox vaccine if I’m pregnant?
No. If you are pregnant, you’ll need to wait until after the birth of your child to be vaccinated.5 If you’re planning on getting pregnant, you can be vaccinated up to three months prior to becoming pregnant.5
Is the chickenpox vaccine a new vaccine?
No – the vaccine was first licensed for use in 1994.15 It is currently in use in more than 95 countries around the world including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.15-18
How long does protection against chickenpox last after vaccination?
Protection has been shown to last for at least 20 years.3,19 Immunity appears to be very long term for most people immunised; it is not known if it is lifelong.9,20