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Open Access Research article

Varicella: epidemiological aspects and vaccination coverage in the Veneto Region

Vincenzo Baldo1*, Tatjana Baldovin1, Francesca Russo2, Marta Cecilia Busana1, Cinzia Piovesan2, Greta Bordignon1, Aurore Giliberti1 and Renzo Trivello1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Institute of Hygiene, University of Padua, Padua, Italy

2 Regional Department for Prevention, Public Health and Screening Section, Veneto Region, Italy

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:150  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-150

Published: 8 September 2009

Abstract

Background

With the control of many infections through national vaccination programmes, varicella is currently the most widespread preventable childhood disease in industrialized nations. In 2005 varicella vaccination was added to the Veneto Region routine immunization schedule for all children at 14 months of age and 12 year-old susceptible adolescents through an active and a free of charge offer. To evaluate parameters at the start of the programme, we conducted a study to describe the epidemiology of varicella infection and coverage rates for varicella vaccine in the Veneto Region (North-East Italy).

Methods

We examined incidence rates and median age of case patients in the Veneto Region for 2000-2007 period using two data sources: the mandatory notification of infections diseases and the Italian Paediatric Sentinel Surveillance System of Vaccine Preventable Diseases. Corrected coverage rates were calculated from data supplied by the Public Health and Screening Section of the Regional Department for Prevention.

Results

In the Veneto Region from 2000 to 2007, a total of 99,351 varicella cases were reported through mandatory notifications, mostly in children under 15 years of age. The overall standardised annual incidence ranged from 2.0 to 3.3 per 1,000 population, with fluctuations from year to year. The analysis by geographic area showed a similar monthly incidence rate in Italy and in the Veneto Region. The vaccination average adherence rate was 8.2% in 2004 cohort, 63.5% in 2005 cohort and 86.5% in 2006 cohort. Corrected coverage rates were 8.1% in 2004 cohort, 59.9% in 2005 cohort and 70.0% in 2006 cohort, respectively.

Conclusion

Data from passive and active surveillance systems confirm that varicella is a common disease which each year affects a large proportion of the population, mainly children. Uptake of the varicella vaccination programme was strikingly good with average coverage rates of about 70% after only 3 years. Sustained implementation of existing vaccine policies is needed to warrant any significant reduction of varicella incidence in the Veneto Region. Continued surveillance will be important to monitor the impact of the recently introduced mass vaccination policy.