National varicella immunization coverage using the current 1-dose immunization strategy has increased among vaccine-eligible children 19 through 35 months of age from 27% in 1997 to 88% by 2005. These high immunization rates have resulted in a 71% to 84% decrease in the reported number of varicella cases, an 88% decrease in varicella-related hospitalizations, a 59% decrease in varicella-related ambulatory care visits, and a 92% decrease in varicella-related deaths in 1-to 4-year-old children when compared with data from the prevaccine era. Despite this significant decrease, the number of reported cases of varicella has remained relatively constant during the past 5 to 6 years. Since vaccine effectiveness for prevention of disease of any severity has been 80% to 85%, a large number of cases of varicella continue to occur among people who already have received the vaccine (breakthrough varicella), and outbreaks of varicella have been reported among highly immunized populations of schoolchildren. The peak age-specific incidence has shifted from 3- to 6-year-old children in the prevaccine era to 9- to 11-year-old children in the postvaccine era for cases in both immunized and unimmunized children during these outbreaks. Outbreaks of varicella are likely to continue with the current 1-dose immunization strategy. After administration of 2 doses of varicella vaccine in children, the immune response is markedly enhanced, with >99% of children achieving an antibody concentration (determined by glycoprotein enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) of ≥5 U/mL (an approximate correlate of protection) and a marked increase in geometric mean antibody titers after the second vaccine dose. The estimated vaccine efficacy over a 10-year observation period of 2 doses for prevention of any varicella disease is 98% (compared with 94% for 1 dose), with 100% efficacy for prevention of severe disease. Recipients of 2 doses of varicella vaccine are 3.3-fold less likely to have breakthrough varicella, compared with those who are given 1 dose, during the first 10 years after immunization. To achieve greater levels of immunity with fewer serosusceptible people, greater protection against breakthrough varicella disease, and reduction in the number of outbreaks that occur nationwide among school-aged populations, a 2-dose varicella immunization strategy is now recommended for children ≥12 months of age.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health