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March 13, 1978

Varicella-Zoster Virus Vaccine

Author Affiliations

The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio

JAMA. 1978;239(11):1034-1035. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280380034004

To the Editor.—  In his discussion of the new Japanese chickenpox vaccine (238:1731, 1977), Albert B. Sabin, MD, provides a somewhat superficial analysis of the morbidity produced by varicella. The implication that the chickenpox vaccine may reduce the morbidity owing to zoster or the statement that the use of the vaccine will not produce more zoster than natural infections, moreover, are entirely speculative.Although chickenpox is a very contagious disease that is contracted by almost all children, it is usually quite mild. Most of the morbidity tends to be concentrated in a relatively small group of immunocompromised persons and in adults. Immunocompromised persons are easily identified, and in most the illness can be modified by passive immunization. The total deaths owing to chickenpox encephalitis were 14, 10, and 12 during the last three years (reports are available).Of major concern is the fact that varicella-zoster virus, as the name implies,