Prevention: The appropriate use of varicella vaccine, effective in the prevention of chickenpox, has been considered by a Ministry of Health Working Party in 1996 and 1997, including discussion at a workshop held in Wellington, 26-27 June 1996. The introduction of varicella vaccine into the routine childhood immunisation schedule was not supported at this stage. The use of the only varicella vaccine for which the Minister of Health has given consent for distribution in New Zealand, Varilrix (SmithKline Beecham Limited), in healthy children aged nine months to 13 years inclusive, was supported. Consent has not been given for the use of Varilrix in immunocompromised people or in adults. This report discusses other groups that could be candidates for vaccination, such as children with deteriorating renal function and susceptible health care workers who regularly come into contact with especially vulnerable patients. In these cases, the vaccine would need to be administered on a named patient basis. The use of Varilrix in immunocompromised people was not supported.
Surveillance: Enhanced surveillance of chickenpox and zoster are required in New Zealand. Adverse reactions to Varilrix should be carefully monitored.
Outbreak control: There are insufficient data at present to support the use of Varilrix in outbreak control. The frequency, cost and current management of nosocomial outbreaks should be ascertained. This information may also assist in the decision whether to incorporate a varicella vaccine into the routine childhood immunisation schedule in the future.