Varicella better known as chicken pox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus. Varicella results in fever and blisters like rashes that first appear on the face and trunk and then spread to the entire body. These blisters can be painful and cause itchiness. The incubation period for the disease is nearly 10 to 21 days after which the disease naturally disappears. In some cases the primary varicella infection can become dormant and reactivate later when the immune system is weaker to cause shingles.
The Varicella infection spreads in the same way as flu and colds. Varicella or chicken pox can affect any body at any age, however, the infection is more prominent between the ages of 5 and 9 and most people have said to be affected by this infection by age 15. The varicella virus infection is particularly severe in infants and adults. Winter and spring are the most common times of the year when the chicken pox infection is most active.
Varicella vaccine is vaccine meant to provide protection against chicken pox. The varicella vaccine is a weakened but, live virus that stimulates a response from the body’s immune system which in turn provides lifelong protection from varicella infection. Although the varicella vaccine is 95% effective in preventing the disease, health professionals argue that two doses are better than one for complete protection against the disease.
Many countries offer the varicella vaccine as a single vaccine while in other countries the varicella vaccination is given as part of MMRV vaccine or measles, mumps, rubella and varivax. The varicella injectionvaccine is given in the subcutaneous layer of the skin in the arms or thighs.
Although varicella infection is usually self limiting but the infection is particularly severe among babies and has resulted in infantile deaths in several cases. And as such it is important to get them vaccinated. The varicella vaccine for babies is the same as normal varicella vaccine and is given at the age of 12 to 15 months by means of a varicella injection shot. Babies having varicella vaccination are given a booster shot at the age of 4 to 6 years.
Varicella vaccine for adults are known as varicella zoster vaccines, which are nothing but, larger than normal dose of the same varicella vaccine given for chicken pox. The varicella zoster vaccine is specifically formulated for older adults above the age of 50 and helps prevents the risk of shingles. There are two types of the varicella zoster vaccine namely; Zostavax and Shingrix. While Zostavax is a live vaccine, Shingrix is a non – live antigen and comes in two doses. Shingrix is also the preferred varicella vaccine for adults and for the prevention of shingles.
The WHO recommends one or two doses of the varicella vaccine. With the first varicella vaccine dose to be given at 12 to 18 months of age and the second varicella vaccine dose to be given at least three months apart. Babies should be further given a booster varicella vaccine dose at the age of 4 – 6 years for further protection from the disease. Children above 13 years who have not been given varicella vaccination should be given two doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart.
The minimum varicella vaccine age is 12 months and there is no age limit as to when the vaccine should be stopped. Any adult without prior varicella infection and vaccination can get vaccinated with two doses of the varicella vaccine.
The common varicella vaccine side effects are as follows;
The more severe types of varicella vaccine side effects although rare are seizure, convulsions, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, behaviour changes and high fever. Some people also develop severe allergic reaction to the vaccine like swelling of the face, throat, lips and tongue. Such people should abstain from getting booster shots to prevent further allergic reactions.
The varicella vaccine should not be given to people with the following conditions;
Varicella vaccine cost is depended upon the type of vaccine used and the dosage and the usual varicella vaccine cost averages around 2000 INR and the booster dose ranges around 500 INR. These prices are only indicative and can cost more including the doctor’s charges and clinic charges. Also these prices are for standalone varicella vaccine and the MMRV vaccine cost might differ.