In the first six years since its adoption, the one-dose vaccination schedule reduced deaths by 66% overall and by 74% in previously healthy people younger than 50 years.
Since the publication of those impressive figures, vaccination coverage has increased substantially.
Now, new evidence published by US authorities in Pediatrics – the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics – reveals that the decline in varicella mortality rate is now 88% overall and 96% among people below 50.
The report is based on statistics from the US National Center for Health Statistics and compares mortality rates from the period 2002-2007 with trends prior to the introduction of the vaccine.
Across all age groups, the death rate from varicella-related illnesses fell from 0.41 per million population in the early 1990s to 0.05 million population in 2007.
In the last six years analyzed (2002-2008), a total of three deaths per age range were reported among children aged one to four and five to nine years. In the pre-vaccine era, annual death rates averaged at 13 and 16 deaths, respectively.
The authors – Mona Marin, John X. Zhang and Jane F. Seward from the CDC – said the current two-dose vaccination schedule has the potential to end deaths from varicella altogether.
“The impressive decline in varicella deaths can be directly attributed to successful implementation of the one-dose vaccination program. With the current two-dose program, there is potential that these most severe outcomes of a vaccine-preventable disease could be eliminated,” the authors conclude.