Chicken Pox Vaccine Saves $100 Million Per Year in Hospital Care, Study Finds
The chicken pox vaccine saves the U.S. health care system about $100 million per year through reduced hospitalizations for severe cases of the disease, according to a study published in the September issue of Pediatrics, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 9/6). In the study, funded by the University of Michigan, Dr. Matthew Davis, pediatrician and internist at the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of public policy at the university, and colleagues analyzed cost and diagnoses data on patients discharged from hundreds of hospitals nationwide between 1993 and 2001.
The study found that hospitalization rates from chicken pox and related complications decreased by 74% between 1995, when the vaccine reached the market, and 2001. Hospital bills related to the disease decreased by 59% from 1995 to 2001. In addition, the study also concluded that higher chicken pox vaccination rates lead to a "herd immunity" that benefits the general population. According to CDC, cases of chicken pox have decreased by as much as 89% among young children in areas with high vaccination rates. Nationwide, CDC estimates that about 85% of children between ages 19 and 35 months have received the chicken pox vaccine (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 9/7).
Davis said that the results of the study are "excellent news for the vaccine program" (AP/New York Times, 9/6). He said, "A lot of skepticism was expressed about whether we really needed" chicken pox vaccine in the United States, adding that the "results show exactly the benefit we're looking for in a vaccination program." Concerns about the effectiveness of the chicken pox vaccine have prompted health officials to study whether to recommend a booster.
CDC epidemiologist Dalya Guris said that the chicken pox vaccine is 70% to 90% effective (Wall Street Journal, 9/7). The study is available online.