The effect of funded varicella immunization programs on varicella-related hospitalizations in IMPACT centers, Canada, 2000-2008

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2012 Sep;31(9):956-63. doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e318260cc4d.


Background: The 12 Immunization Monitoring Program, Active (IMPACT) centers that represent 90% of pediatric tertiary care beds in Canada conducted active surveillance for varicella-related hospitalizations and complications from 1999 onward, after varicella vaccine was authorized. Publicly funded routine immunization programs at 12 or 15 months of age were introduced by 5 provinces and territories (prov/terr) in 2000 to 2002 (earlier programs, EP) and by 8 prov/terr in 2004 to 2007 (later programs, LP).

Objective: To determine whether the number of varicella-related hospitalized cases had declined by 2008 at 12 IMPACT centers after the sequential introduction of publicly funded varicella immunization programs in Canada.

Methods: Varicella-related hospitalizations from 2000 to 2008 in the prov/terr with EP were under surveillance by 3 IMPACT centers (Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary), whereas the prov/terr with LP were under surveillance by the remaining 9 centers. The age, gender, underlying health status, varicella complications, and length of stay in hospital and the pediatric intensive care unit were documented. Breakthrough cases were identified and their clinical characteristics described.

Results: Between 2000 and 2008, the number of varicella-related hospitalized cases in IMPACT centers declined relatively sooner in prov/terr with EP (by 2002 to 2003), as compared to those with LP (only by 2007 to 2008). In 2008, varicella-related hospitalized cases declined by 88% in the EP centers, and by 81% in the LP centers. In all IMPACT centers, the greatest decline occurred in the 1-4 years age group (90% decline), with smaller declines in both <1 year and 5-9 years age groups (78% and 76% decline, respectively). Breakthrough disease accounted for 39 (2%) cases, with the proportion due to breakthrough increasing from 0.9% in 2000 to 2001, to 2% in 2003 to 2004 and 9.5% in 2007 to 2008. The majority (72%) of breakthrough cases were in immunocompromised children.

Conclusions: Publicly funded varicella vaccination programs have led to a significant decline in varicella-related hospitalizations in Canadian children, as a result of direct effects of the program beginning within 1 to 2 years after the start, as well as probable indirect protection of children outside the vaccinated cohort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Chickenpox / epidemiology*
  • Chickenpox / prevention & control
  • Chickenpox Vaccine / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / economics
  • Immunization Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Public Health Surveillance


  • Chickenpox Vaccine