Implementing Universal Varicella Vaccination in Europe: The Path Forward

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Varicella is a common vaccine-preventable disease that usually presents as a mild disorder but can lead to severe complications. Before the implementation of universal varicella vaccination (UVV) in some European countries, the burden of varicella disease was broadly similar across the region. Despite this, countries adopted heterogeneous varicella vaccination strategies. UVV is currently recommended in 12 European countries. Known barriers to UVV implementation in Europe include (1) a perceived low disease burden and low public health priority; (2) cost-effectiveness and funding availability; (3) concerns related to a shift in varicella disease and incidence of herpes zoster and (4) safety concerns related to measles, mumps, rubella and varicella–associated febrile seizures after the first dose. Countries that implemented UVV experienced decreases in varicella incidence, hospitalizations and complications, showing overall beneficial impact. Alternative strategies targeting susceptible individuals at higher risk of complications have been less effective. This article discusses ways to overcome the barriers to move varicella forward as a truly vaccine preventable disease.

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