The postmarketing safety profile of varicella vaccine was evaluated by analyzing selected adverse experience reports temporally associated with the administration of the vaccine. There were 7963 reports voluntarily submitted to Merck for an overall reporting rate of 5.0 per 10000 doses of vaccine distributed. A varicella zoster virus (VZV) identification program detected the presence of the Oka vaccine strain in three individuals with an immune deficiency - two with pneumonia and one with hepatitis - and in three instances of secondary transmission from vaccinees with vesicular lesions to susceptible household contacts. The Oka vaccine strain was present in 23 patients and wild-type VZV was present in 15 patients with herpes zoster. Vesicular rashes that occurred within 2 weeks of vaccination were more likely to contain the presence of wild-type VZV, while vesicular rashes that occurred more than 2 weeks post-vaccination were more likely to contain the Oka vaccine strain. Eleven patients were hospitalized with complications of breakthrough varicella infection.