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November 12, 1997

Vaccination for Varicella—Just Do It!

JAMA. 1997;278(18):1529-1530. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550180079042

Varicella vaccine (a live, attenuated strain of varicella-zoster virus) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in March 1995 and became available for use in May 1995. Both the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Public Health Service have endorsed a strategy of immunization of all infants 12 to 18 months of age as well as of older susceptible individuals.1,2 There has been considerable controversy about varicella vaccine. Among the questions central to the controversy are: (1) How efficacious is the vaccine and what is the duration of protection that it provides? The morbidity and mortality of varicella are far more severe in adults than in children; if vaccine-induced immunity wanes, will we be creating cohorts of immune children who grow up to be susceptible adults? (2) Will vaccinees be at risk of either