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Varivax Uses

Varivax can help prevent chickenpox in adults, adolescents, and children over 12 months old. Some healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend off-label uses for the vaccine. Using it to prevent chickenpox (or reduce the severity) in people who have been exposed to chickenpox within the past three to five days is considered to be an off-label use of Varivax.

What Is Varivax Used For?

Varivax® (varicella vaccine) is the chickenpox vaccine. It can be given to children older than 12 months, adolescents, and adults. Individuals who have already had chickenpox do not need to get Varivax (vaccination of individuals who have had chickenpox is not dangerous but is unnecessary).
 
Some people may question the benefit of Varivax, since chickenpox was once a common (and seemingly mild) childhood illness. While it is true that most cases of chickenpox are not dangerous, chickenpox can cause severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage, or even death. Before the vaccine, 11,000 people were hospitalized every year and 100 people died every year from chickenpox in the United States alone.
 
Like all vaccines, Varivax is not 100 percent effective for preventing chickenpox. While most people who get the vaccine will never get chickenpox, the few cases that do occur are generally mild. As is common with relatively new vaccines, it is unknown exactly how long this protection will last and if a booster will be necessary.
 

Varivax and Shingles

At this time, it is not exactly clear how Varivax affects the risk of having shingles. Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a chickenpox infection, the body never completely gets rid of the virus, and the virus remains inactive in certain nerve cells in the body. Later in life, often triggered by stress or illness, the virus can become active again, causing shingles.
 
It is not yet clear how Varivax may impact the risk of getting shingles. Although early research indicated that Varivax decreases the risk of shingles, population surveys have shown inconclusive results.
 
There is also a concern that Varivax may indirectly increase the risk of shingles, particularly in people who have never been vaccinated (who actually had chickenpox). Exposure to people with chickenpox (typically through contact with young children) serves as a "booster," providing some protection against shingles.

As actual chickenpox cases are becoming rarer (due to increased vaccination), this natural immune boosting is less likely to occur, and shingles cases may increase.
 
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Varivax Vaccine Information

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