In New Zealand, chickenpox is a common illness in childhood and most adults will have had the disease as a child. Adults who grew up in tropical countries are less likely to have had chickenpox in childhood. Adolescents and adults are at higher risk than children of severe disease and complications.
Varilrix® is a live vaccine containing a weakened form of the varicella-zoster virus to protect children and adults from chickenpox.
In 2020, the National Immunisation Schedule varicella vaccine brand changed from Varilrix to Varivax for eligible children and adults aged 12 months or older.
Varilrix continues to be the funded varicella vaccine brand for infants aged 9–11 months who meet one of the special groups eligibility criteria.
In children aged from 9 months to under 13 years, a single dose of vaccine will protect around eight in 10 children. Up to two in 10 may still get chickenpox, but are usually protected against moderate to severe disease. Children aged 13 years and older, and adults up to 50 years who are not immune, require two doses of the vaccine for protection against moderate to severe disease. The vaccine may also prevent or reduce the severity of chickenpox in someone who has not previously had chickenpox or been vaccinated, if it is given within 3–5 days of exposure to the disease.
Extremely rarely a vaccine recipient with a vaccine-related rash could transfer the vaccine virus to another person. With more than 60 million vaccine doses given, 10 cases have been documented. There is no risk of the vaccine virus being transferred to another person if there is no vaccine-related rash. Vaccine recipients who develop a rash should avoid contact with women who are pregnant and not immune to chickenpox, newborn babies and people known to have weakened immune systems until the rash has gone.
Varilrix for eligible/funded infants aged 9–11 months is available from ProPharma.
Varilrix is also the vaccine available for purchase for childen and adults who are not eligible for funded varicella vaccine doses. Varilrix for non-funded child and adult doses is available from Healthcare Logistics.
Other brands of varicella vaccine: Varivax®
The National Immunisation Schedule varicella vaccine brand is changing from Varilrix to Varivax for eligible children and adults aged 12 months or older.
Varilrix will continue to be the funded varicella vaccine brand for infants aged 9–11 months who meet one of the special groups eligibility criteria.
One dose of Varilrix for infants aged 9–11 months followed by one dose of Varivax from 12 months of age who meet one of the eligibility criteria below:
The vaccine brands Varilrix and Varivax are interchangeable within a two-dose course of vaccines.
Store vaccine and diluent as per cold chain between 2°C to 8°C.
For infants likely to require a liver or kidney transplanation who are on an accelerated vaccination schedule (refer to table 4.3 in the current Immunisation Handbook)
Immunisation should be postponed in individuals suffering from a fever over 38°C. However, the presence of a minor infection is not a reason to delay immunisation.
It is possible but extremely rare for a person with a vaccine related rash to transfer the vaccine virus to another person, only 10 cases have been reported from around 60 million vaccine doses in the U.S. There is no risk of the vaccine virus being transferred to another person if there is no vaccine-related rash.
For optimal protection (99%) against all chickenpox disease in children aged nine months up to and including 12 years of age a vaccine course of two doses of Varilrix separated by at least four weeks is recommended. However, a single dose of vaccine offered from the age of 12 months can provide 70–90% protection against all chickenpox, and more than 95% will be protected from moderate-severe disease but may still get mild chickenpox (often fewer than 50 lesions).
Available information suggests that chickenpox vaccinations may decrease the risk of developing shingles later in life compared with having the wild-type disease.