The safety profile of varicella vaccine: a 10-year review

J Infect Dis. 2008 Mar 1;197 Suppl 2:S165-9. doi: 10.1086/522125.


Varivax (varicella virus vaccine live [Oka/Merck]; Merck), a live attenuated varicella vaccine, is indicated for vaccination against varicella in appropriate individuals > or =12 months of age. The 10-year safety profile for Varivax is described using data submitted to Merck from routine global postmarketing surveillance, combined with information from a Varicella Zoster Virus Identification Program, which uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis to identify the presence and strain of VZV in selected specimens. There were 16,683 reports worldwide voluntarily submitted to Merck, for an overall reporting rate of 3.4 reports/10,000 doses of vaccine distributed. PCR analysis of vesicular rashes that occurred within the first 2 weeks after vaccination was more likely to identify wild-type varicella-zoster virus (VZV), whereas the presence of Oka VZV was generally associated with vesicular rashes that occurred 15-42 days after vaccination. Reports of breakthrough varicella that occurred >42 days after vaccination were associated with wild-type VZV. Among 697 herpes zoster reports, PCR analysis identified Oka VZV in 57 reports and wild-type VZV in 38 reports. There were no primary neurologic adverse events associated with Oka VZV. Secondary transmission of Oka VZV from vaccine recipients with postvaccination vesicular rashes was identified in 3 susceptible household contacts. Disseminated Oka VZV was identified in 6 immunocompromised patients and 1 patient with Down syndrome. This review has shown that the vaccine is generally safe and well tolerated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems*
  • Aged
  • Chickenpox / epidemiology
  • Chickenpox / prevention & control*
  • Chickenpox / transmission
  • Chickenpox / virology
  • Chickenpox Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Chickenpox Vaccine / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Herpes Zoster / epidemiology
  • Herpes Zoster / prevention & control
  • Herpes Zoster / virology
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / classification
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / virology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing / methods*


  • Chickenpox Vaccine