Epidemiological impact of universal varicella vaccination on consecutive emergency department visits for varicella and its economic impact among children in Kobe City, Japan

INTRODUCTION Previous studies reported a dramatic decline in the incidence of varicella and varicella-related deaths after implementing universal varicella vaccination (VarV). Although previous studies reported the effectiveness and economic impact of VarV, they were unknown in the emergency department (ED) setting.
METHODS To determine the effectiveness and economic impact of VarV in the ED, Kobe, Japan, we retrospectively reviewed the clinical database of consecutive patients younger than 16 years presenting to our primary ED from 2011 to 2019.
RESULTS Of the 265,191 children presenting to our ED, 3,092 patients were clinically diagnosed with varicella. The number of patients with varicella was approximately 500 annually, before introducing the universal two-dose VarV for children aged 1 to<3 years in October 2014, in the Japanese national immunization program, and decreased to approximately 200 in 2019. The number of patients with varicella younger than 1 year (ineligible for the vaccination) also decreased. Regarding the economic impact, the medical cost in our ED reduced after the introduction of VarV was JPY 4.1 million (US$ 40,049) annually. From the central data, approximately 95% of children were vaccinated after October 2014; however, a relatively large percentage of infected unvaccinated children (59.0%) presented to ED in this study. After the implementation of the universal VarV, infection was mainly observed in older children (i.e., the unvaccinated generation).
CONCLUSIONS Our data showed the effectiveness and economic impact of VarV in the ED setting. Additionally, our data suggested that the public vaccination program should include older unvaccinated children and other unvaccinated individuals.

as reported in: J Infect Chemother. 2021 Oct 4 [Epub ahead of print]