Distribution of Health Effects and Cost-effectiveness of Varicella Vaccination are Shaped by the Impact on Herpes Zoster
Author(s)Alies van Lier
Hester de Melker
Michiel van Boven
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AbstractIntroduction: Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is the etiological agent of varicella and herpes zoster (HZ). It has been hypothesised that immune boosting of latently infected persons by contact with varicella reduces the probability of HZ. If true, universal varicella vaccination may increase HZ incidence due to reduced VZV circulation. To inform decision-making, we conduct cost-effectiveness analyses of varicella vaccination, including effects on HZ. Methods: Effects of varicella vaccination are simulated with a dynamic transmission model, parameterised with Dutch VZV seroprevalence and HZ incidence data, and linked to an economic model. We consider vaccination scenarios that differ by whether or not they include immune boosting, and reactivation of vaccine virus. Results: Varicella incidence decreases after introduction of vaccination, while HZ incidence may increase or decrease depending on whether or not immune boosting is present. Without immune boosting, vaccination is expected to be cost-effective or even cost-saving. With immune boosting, vaccination at 95% coverage is not expected to be cost-effective, and may even cause net health losses. Conclusions: Cost-effectiveness of varicella vaccination depends strongly on the impact on HZ and the economic time horizon. Our findings reveal ethical dilemmas as varicella vaccination may result in unequal distribution of health effects between generations.