The vaccination program against chickenpox for children funded by the Government of Ontario appears to have significantly reduced the number of children infected with the virus, say researchers.
In a study that looks at data over 20 years, Public Health Ontario (PHO) found a drop of 71% of doctor’s office visits or in emergency rooms, and a decline of 59% of hospitalizations chickenpox in children after the public vaccination program was launched in 2004, compared with two previous periods.
These cover periods studied from 1992 to 1998, when there was no vaccine, and from 1999 to 2003, when the vaccine was available, but had to be paid by the parents.
Lead author, Dr. Anne Wormsbecker, medical epidemiologist and pediatrician SPO, said noted that the immunization program reached its goals entirely, saying that the study suggests that fewer children contract the virus and that a smaller number are hospitalized for complications.
Chickenpox is a generalized viral disease caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is characterized by the eruption of skin lesions that persist about five to ten days. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue and headaches.
The virus is spread by direct contact with the fluid in the lesions or breathing air passing over lesions.
The study, published online Wednesday in PLoS ONE journal shows that between 1992 and 2011, there were more than 600,000 visits to the doctor’s office, 55,500 emergency room visits and 2,700 hospitalizations for varicella Ontario children.
In 1994, before the vaccine is available, the doctor visits motivated by the varicella were 25 for every 1,000 children. In 2011, seven years after the start of the public vaccination program, that number slipped to 3.2 per 1,000 children.