Aim: To assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a universal childhood varicella-zoster vaccination programme in Belgium (1) using the most recent Belgian data on varicella-zoster burden, (2) exploring different options for the timing of the second dose, (3) obtaining results with and without exogenous natural boosting, and (4) investigating the possible additional benefit of zoster booster vaccination for adults at age 50 or 60 y.
Methods: An extensively studied and improved dynamic model is used to estimate primary and breakthrough chickenpox and zoster cases over time. For a range of vaccination options, we compared the direct costs (health care payer perspective) and health outcomes (including Quality-Adjusted Life-Years (QALYs) lost) associated with chickenpox and herpes zoster. Estimates of social contact patterns, health care use, costs and QALY losses are almost exclusively based on Belgian databases and surveys.
Results and conclusions: If exogenous natural boosting exists, a net loss in QALYs is expected for several decades after implementing a universal chickenpox vaccination programme, due to an increase in zoster mainly in persons aged 50-80 y. This result holds also for scenarios that minimise or counteract the expected increase in zoster incidence (e.g. additional booster vaccinations in adults). However, if the boosting hypothesis is not true or if costs and QALYs are cumulated over at least 33 to more than 100 y after vaccination (depending on the assumptions made), different options for universal 2-dose vaccination against chickenpox in Belgium would be cost-effective at a vaccine price of €43/dose or lower.
Keywords: Zostavax; age; chickenpox; cost-utility; shingles; time horizon; uncertainty.