Chickenpox Vaccine Continues to Save Lives

Varicella vaccine linked to lower rates of hospitalization and death

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Fewer itchy rashes and missed school days may only be a few of the benefits of the chickenpox vaccine.

A new study from the US National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases found that rates of chickenpox, as well as hospitalizations and deaths resulting from the varicella virus, have declined substantially since the vaccine became available in the US in 1995.

This may mean that increasing chickenpox vaccination also protected those not immunized.

“We found that, in our study, rates for varicella in the U.S. continued to decline as the varicella vaccine program has become fully implemented,” said Jessica Leung, MPH, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a press release.

Before the US began its chickenpox vaccination program in 1995, about 4 million people came down with chickenpox each year.

Nearly 11,000 people were also hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died from complications of the virus each year.

In 2007, the US began a a two-dose immunization program.

Using data from health databases, Leung and team looked at rates of hospital visits and hospital stays for chickenpox from 1994 to 2012.

Hospital visits declined 84 percent and hospitalizations declined 93 percent during this period.

These declines were most noticeable among children and teens age 1 to 19, when chickenpox is more common.

However, declines among infants and adults were also found. Infants are not recommended to be vaccinated until 1 year of age. Adults are often not immunized.

According to these researchers, this suggests that the vaccine may lead to “herd immunity” — in which non-vaccinated people are protected from the virus as a direct result of the vaccination of those around them.

This study was published Aug. 13 in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
August 12, 2015
Last Updated:
August 19, 2015