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AIDSinfo Drug Database

AIDSinfo Drug Database

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Varicella Virus Vaccine Live  Audio icon

Brand Name: Varivax
Other Names: Varicella vaccine
Drug Class: Opportunistic Infections and Coinfections

What is Varivax?

Varivax is a vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent chicken pox (also known as primary varicella infection) in people 12 months of age and older. Chicken pox is an opportunistic infection. An opportunistic infection is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as those infected with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems.

The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA-HIVMA), includes recommendations on the use of Varivax in HIV-infected individuals.

What should I tell my health care provider before receiving Varivax?

Before receiving Varivax, tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to gelatin, neomycin, any other ingredients in Varivax, or any medicines. Tell your health care provider if you have ever had any reactions to a previous dose of the vaccine or to any other vaccines.
  • About any medical conditions you have or have had, for example, diabetes or liver problems.
  • About anything that could affect your ability to take medicines, such as missing a scheduled dose or any health conditions that may prevent your use of intravenous medicines.
  • If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Whether Varivax can harm an unborn baby is unknown. Varivax should not be given to pregnant women. And pregnancy should be avoided for 3 months after vaccination. Talk to your health care provider about possible risks with receiving Varivax when pregnant. 
  • If you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed if you are infected with HIV.
  • About other prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Varivax may affect the way other medicines or products work, and other medicines or products may affect how Varivax works. Ask your health care provider if there are interactions between Varivax and the medicines you take.

Ask your health care provider about possible side effects from Varivax. Your health care provider will tell you what to do if you have side effects.

How is Varivax given?

A health care provider gives the Varivax vaccine. The vaccine is given as a shot to people who are 12 months of age or older. Vaccination with Varivax in children 12 months to 12 years of age is given as one or two vaccine shots; if two shots are given, they are done at least 3 months apart. Vaccination with Varivax in adolescents and adults is usually given as a series of two vaccine shots over a 4- to 8-week period. Read any printed information that your health care provider gives you about the varicella virus vaccine.

Where can I find more information about varicella virus vaccines?

More information about varicella virus vaccines is available:

The above Patient Version drug summary is based on the following FDA label(s): Injection (powder, lyophilized, for suspension).

Last Reviewed: April 23, 2015

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