The impact of childhood varicella vaccination on the incidence of herpes zoster in the general population: modelling the effect of exogenous and endogenous varicella-zoster virus immunity boosting

Sauboin, Christophe; Holl, Katsiaryna; Bonanni, Paolo; Gershon, Anne A.; Benninghoff, Bernd; Carryn, Stephane; Burgess, Margaret A.; Wutzler, Peter

A controversy exists about the potential effect of childhood varicella vaccination on Herpes Zoster (HZ) incidence. Mathematical models projected temporary HZ incidence increase after vaccine introduction that was not confirmed by real-world evidence. These models assume that absence of contacts with infected children would prevent exogenous boosting of Varicella-Zoster-Virus (VZV) immunity and they do not include an endogenous VZV immunity-boosting mechanism following asymptomatic VZV reactivation. This study aims to explore the effect of various assumptions on exogenous and endogenous VZV immunity-boosting on HZ incidence in the general population after introduction of routine childhood varicella vaccination.

An age-structured dynamic transmission model was adapted and fitted to the seroprevalence of varicella in France in absence of vaccination using the empirical contact matrix. A two-dose childhood varicella vaccination schedule was introduced at 12 and 18 months. Vaccine efficacy was assumed at 65%/95% (dose 1/dose 2), and coverage at 90%/80% (dose 1/dose 2). Exogenous boosting intensity was based on assumptions regarding HZ-immunity duration, age-dependent boosting effect, and HZ reactivation rates fitted to observed HZ incidence. Endogenous boosting was the same as pre-vaccination exogenous boosting but constant over time, whilst exogenous boosting depended on the force of infection. Five scenarios were tested with different weightings of exogenous (Exo) - endogenous (Endo) boosting: 100%Exo–0%Endo, 75%Exo–25%Endo, 50%Exo–50%Endo, 25%Exo–75%Endo, 0%Exo–100%Endo.

HZ incidence before varicella vaccination, all ages combined, was estimated at 3.96 per 1000 person-years; it decreased by 64% by year 80 post vaccine introduction, for all boosting assumptions. The 100%Exo-0%Endo boosting scenario, predicted an increase in HZ incidence for the first 21 years post vaccine introduction with a maximum increase of 3.7% (4.1/1000) at year 9. However, with 0%Exo-100%Endo boosting scenario an immediate HZ decline was projected. The maximum HZ incidence increases at 10, 3, and 2 years post vaccination were 1.8% (75%Exo-25%Endo), 0.8% (50%Exo-50%Endo) and 0.2% (25%Exo-75%Endo), respectively.

Assuming modest levels of endogenous boosting, the increase in HZ incidence following childhood varicella vaccination was smaller and lasted for a shorter period compared with 100%Exo-0%Endo boosting assumption. Endogenous boosting mechanism could partly explain the divergence between previous HZ-incidence projections and real-world evidence.


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BMC Infectious Diseases

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April 3, 2019


Boosting, Varicella, Herpes zoster, Vaccination, Viral infection