Decreased varicella and increased herpes zoster incidence at a sentinel medical deputising service in a setting of increasing varicella vaccine coverage in Victoria, Australia, 1998 to 2012

Euro Surveill. 2014 Oct 16;19(41):20926. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.es2014.19.41.20926.


We performed an ecological study using sentinel consultation data from a medical deputising service to assess the impact of increasing coverage with childhood varicella vaccine on the incidence risk of varicella and zoster in the population served by the deputising service in Victoria, Australia from 1998 to 2012. Following a successful vaccination programme, the incidence of varicella in Australia was modelled to decrease and the incidence of zoster to increase, based on a theoretical decrease in boosting of zoster immunity following a decrease in wild varicella virus circulation due to vaccination. Incidence risks (consultation proportions for varicella and zoster) were directly age-standardised to the Melbourne population in 2000, when varicella vaccine was first available. Age-standardised varicella incidence risk peaked in 2000 and halved by 2012. Age-standardised zoster incidence risk remained constant from 1998 to 2002, but had almost doubled by 2012. The increase in zoster consultations largely reflected increases in people younger than 50 years-old. Although causality cannot be inferred from ecological studies, it is generally agreed that the decrease in varicella incidence is due to increasing varicella vaccine coverage. The possible indirect effect of the vaccine on zoster incidence is less clear and ongoing monitoring of zoster is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Chickenpox / epidemiology*
  • Chickenpox / prevention & control*
  • Chickenpox Vaccine / administration & dosage*
  • Chickenpox Vaccine / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Surveys
  • Herpes Zoster / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Zoster / prevention & control*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sentinel Surveillance
  • Sex Distribution
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Victoria / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Chickenpox Vaccine