ST LOUIS (MD Consult) – With implementation of the varicella vaccination program in the United States, deaths due to the disease among children and adolescents have virtually ceased, finds a study reported in the August 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
Using data from the Mortality Multiple Cause-of-Death records of the US National Center for Health Statistics, investigators analyzed temporal patterns of deaths among individuals of all ages for which varicella was listed as an underlying or contributing cause between 1990 and 2007. The vaccination program was introduced in 1995.
Over the first 12 years of the program, the annual average mortality rate for varicella listed as the underlying cause fell by 88%, from 0.41 per million population in 1990-1994 to 0.05 per million population in 2005-2007.
The same pattern was evident across all age-groups. The reduction was 97%, 90%, and 67% among children and adolescents younger than 20 years, among adults aged 20 to 49 years, and among adults aged 50 years or older, respectively.
In the last 6 years analyzed (2002-2007), there were 3 deaths each among children aged 1 to 4 years and aged 5 to 9 years; in sharp contrast, there were an average of 13 and 16 deaths annually, respectively, before the vaccine was introduced.
All of the deaths among children and adolescents younger than 20 years in 2002-2007 occurred in those who did not have high-risk conditions as strictly defined by the study, although 3 occurred in children or adolescents having conditions that could increase risk.
“The impressive decline in varicella deaths can be directly attributed to successful implementation of the 1-dose vaccination program,” the investigators conclude. “With the current 2-dose program, there is potential that these most severe outcomes of a vaccine-preventable disease could be eliminated.”