The impact of varicella vaccination on paediatric herpes zoster epidemiology: A Canadian population-based retrospective cohort study

The impact of universal varicella vaccination on herpes zoster (HZ) risk in unvaccinated and vaccinated children, and its long-term influence on HZ epidemiology, remains unknown.

We conducted a retrospective cohort study using population-based administrative health data for children born between 1993 and 2018 (n = 924,124). We calculated age-specific cumulative HZ incidence rates by vaccination status for cohorts born before (1993-1999) and after (2000-2018) programme implementation; results were used to calculate relative risk of HZ by age group, vaccination status and vaccine availability period. Annual HZ incidence rates were calculated for 1993-2018.

HZ risk was higher among unvaccinated children compared to vaccinated children across age groups; 64% higher before universal vaccination (RR: 0.36, 95% CI: 0.33, 0.39), and 32% higher after universal vaccination (RR: 0.68, 95% CI: 0.64, 0.73). Among unvaccinated children, HZ risk was 60% lower after vaccine programme implementation (RR: 0.40, 95% CI: 0.38, 0.43). Two-dose receipt corresponded with a 41% lower risk of HZ compared to one-dose receipt (RR: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.53, 0.65). Crude annual HZ incidence rates declined 64% after programme implementation, with decreases observed across age groups.

Universal varicella vaccination programme implementation corresponds to decreased paediatric HZ incidence across age groups, in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Results from this study can be used to help inform varicella vaccination programme decision-making in other countries.

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Rafferty E, Reifferscheid L, Russel ML, Booth S, Svenson LW, MacDonald SE

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