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Chickenpox Vaccine Cuts Hospitalization Rates: Study
Date:1/5/2011

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The one-dose chickenpox vaccine dramatically cut the number of chickenpox-related hospitalizations in the United States for the first half of the past decade, according to a new study.

And a second study has found that the two-dose version of the vaccine, first recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006, may offer youngsters even better protection.

Chickenpox, caused by the varicella zoster virus, can result in dehydration, bacterial skin infections and, in rare cases, death. Vaccination for chickenpox became available in the United States in 1995. The so-called "one-dose era" ended in 2006 when a federal advisory panel recommended two doses of the vaccine be given -- the first at ages 12 to 15 months, and the second at ages 4 to 6 years.

According to researchers, the one-dose vaccine program, run by the CDC and state and local governments, prevented about 50,000 hospitalizations in the United States from 2000 to 2006.

"Our study shows that the vaccination program has been successful in reducing varicella-infection hospitalizations not only among the targeted population of 10 years and under, but also has resulted in a 65 percent decline in persons greater than 20 years of age during the one-dose era," said study co-author Adriana Lopez, an epidemiologist in the division of viral diseases in the CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases.

During the one-dose era, the annual hospitalization rate for chickenpox decreased 70 percent for children under 20 years old and 65 percent for those aged 20 and older, according to the report in the February issue of Pediatrics.

The study analyzed medical records from two national databases, the National Hospital Discharge Survey and the Nationwide Inpatient Sample.

A second study, published in the Feb. 1 issue of
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