August 17, 2005

Chickenpox vaccine lowers need for hospital care

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - There has been a marked drop in
chickenpox-related hospitalizations, office visits and related
expenditures since a routine chickenpox vaccination program was
started in the US in 1995, new research shows.

Previous reports have suggested that the program helped cut
the rate of disease, but the impact on healthcare utilization
was unclear, according to the report in the Journal of the
American Medical Association.

To investigate, Dr. Fangjun Zhou, from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues
analyzed data from MarketScan databases, which included
information on children and adults enrolled in more than 100
health insurance plans between 1994 and 2002.

During the study period, chickenpox hospitalizations fell
88 percent, from 2.3 to 0.3 cases per 100,000 population, while
ambulatory visits dropped 59 percent, from 215 to 89 per
100,000 population. Although the greatest declines occurred in
infants younger than 1 year, all age groups experienced a

In 1994 and 1995, the direct medical expenditures for
chickenpox hospitalizations and ambulatory visits were
estimated at $84.9 million. By 2002, this figure had dropped to
$22.1 million.

"This is the first study, to our knowledge, to include both
hospitalizations and ambulatory visits in the analysis of
(chickenpox) healthcare utilization over a period that spanned
the introduction and maturation of the...vaccination program in
the US," the authors point out.

In a related editorial, Dr. Matthew M. Davis, from the
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, comments that "to maximize
the benefits of vaccines for children and adults in the future,
it is imperative to formally and openly consider how best to
incorporate cost-effectiveness considerations into
deliberations about vaccine recommendations, thereby
acknowledging that health and economics cannot be teased

Journal of the American Medical Association, August 17,