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Monitoring the Impact of Varicella Vaccination

Chickenpox used to be very common in the United States. In the early 1990s, an average of 4 million people got varicella, 10,500 to 13,000 were hospitalized (range, 8,000 to 18,000), and 100 to 150 died each year. In the 1990s, the highest rate of varicella was reported in preschool-aged children.

Chickenpox vaccine became available in the United States in 1995. In 2010, 90% of children 19 to 35 months old in the United States had received one dose of varicella vaccine, varying from 72% to 97% by state and city. Among adolescents 13 to 17 years of age without a prior history of disease, 90% had received 1 dose of varicella vaccine, and 58% had received 2 doses of the vaccine.

Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of varicella, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths are prevented by varicella vaccination in the United States.

  • Varicella incidence in 26 states, which had adequate and consistent reporting to the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS), declined by 45% from 2000 to 2005 with an additional 77% decline from 2006 to 2010 after the second dose of varicella vaccine was recommended. Overall, varicella declined 82% from 2000 to 2010.
  • National hospitalization rates for varicella declined overall by 71% during 2000 to 2006 compared with rates from 1988 to 1995. In people younger than 20 years of age, hospitalization rates declined by approximately 95%.
  • Varicella deaths declined by 98.5% in children and adolescents less than 20 years of age during 2008 to 2009 compared with 1990 to 1994. Deaths declined by 96% in adults less than 50 years of age and by 49% in adults 50 years of age or older.
  • Varicella incidence among HIV-infected children declined 63% during 2000-2007 compared to 1989-1999.
  • Varicella vaccination provides indirect benefits to people who are not eligible for vaccination. Varicella incidence among infants, a group not eligible for varicella vaccination, declined by 90% from 1995 to 2008.

CDC is monitoring the effects of varicella vaccination on the epidemiology of herpes zoster in the United States.