Chickenpox Home > Varivax

Varivax is a vaccine used for preventing chickenpox in both adults and children. It is a live vaccine, meaning it contains the living virus which has been altered in such a way as to prevent it from actually causing chickenpox. The vaccine is given as two separate doses, at least one to three months apart (depending on the age of the individual).

What Is Varivax?

Varivax® (varicella vaccine) is a vaccine approved to prevent chickenpox.
(Click Varivax Uses for more information on what the medication is used for, including possible off-label uses.)

Thimerosal Content and Other Concerns

People who are concerned about exposure to thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative) can be confident that this vaccine contains no thimerosal, not even in trace amounts. Some people are concerned about aluminum content of vaccines; this vaccine contains no aluminum.
However, this vaccine is made using cell lines developed from aborted human fetuses and guinea pigs.

Who Makes Varivax?

Varivax is made by Merck & Co., Inc.

How Does Varivax Work?

Simply stated, Varivax "tricks" the body into thinking it has been exposed to chickenpox. The body produces antibodies that will help fight the virus if future exposure occurs.
This vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine. This means that it contains the living virus which has been altered in such a way as to prevent it from actually causing disease. However, the body's immune system still responds to it, providing future protection from the disease.
In general, live vaccines provide better protection from infections (compared to other types of vaccines) but can, in rare cases, actually cause the disease, particularly in people who have very weakened immune systems.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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