Background: This national, sentinel prospective study aimed to identify children with severe hospitalized varicella, despite availability of universal 1-dose vaccination since 2005, and determine associations between virus genotypes and disease severity.
Methods: Children with varicella or zoster from 5 Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance hospitals were enrolled. Lesions were swabbed for genotyping. Associations with disease severity were analyzed using multiple regression.
Results: From 2007 to 2015, 327 children with confirmed varicella (n = 238) or zoster (n = 89) were enrolled. Two hundred three (62%) were immunocompetent children; including 5 of 8 children who required intensive care unit management. Eighteen percent (36 of 203) of immunocompetent children had been previously vaccinated. Vaccinated children aged >18 months were less likely to have severe disease (9%; 5 of 56) than unvaccinated children (21%; 21 of 100; P = .05). Three of 126 children who had virus genotyping (2 immunocompromised) had varicella (n = 2) or zoster (n = 2) due to the Oka/vaccine strain. European origin clades predominated and were independently associated with more severe disease (odds ratio = 3.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.1- 9.5; P = .04).
Conclusions: Severe hospitalized varicella still occurs with a 1-dose varicella program, although predominantly in unvaccinated children. Most 1-dose vaccine recipients were protected against severe disease. Viral genotyping in complex hospitalized cases is important to assist in monitoring disease due to Oka-vaccine strain.