We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled efficacy trial of the live attenuated Oka/Merck varicella vaccine among 956 children between the ages of 1 and 14 years, with a negative clinical history of varicella. Of the 914 children who were serologically confirmed to be susceptible to varicella, 468 received vaccine and 446 received placebo. The vaccine produced few clinical reactions and was well tolerated. There was no clinical evidence of viral spread from vaccinated children to sibling controls. Approximately eight weeks after vaccination, 94 per cent of the initially seronegative children who received vaccine had detectable antibody to varicella. During the nine-month surveillance period, 39 clinically diagnosed cases of varicella, 38 of which were confirmed by laboratory tests, occurred among study participants. All 39 cases occurred in placebo recipients; no child who received vaccine contracted varicella. The vaccine was 100 per cent efficacious in preventing varicella in this population of healthy children (P less than 10(-9).