Varicella outbreak in a highly-vaccinated school population in Beijing, China during the voluntary two-dose era
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Varicella outbreak in a highly-vaccinated school population in Beijing, China during the voluntary two-dose era

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    Two-dose varicella vaccination has been available in Beijing since 2012 in the private sector. We investigated a varicella outbreak in a highly vaccinated elementary school population.


    A cohort study was carried out and a varicella case was defined as an acute onset of generalized maculopapulovesicular rash without other apparent cause in a student attending the school from March 29 through May 17, 2015. Breakthrough varicella was defined as varicella >42 days after the last vaccine dose among both 1- or 2-dose varicella vaccine recipients. Vaccination information was collected from immunization records; information on prior varicella and clinical presentations was collected by surveying students’ parents.


    Of the 1056 students in the school, 1027 (97.3%) reported no history of varicella. Prior to the outbreak, 98.6% of students had received ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine, and most (63.2%) students received two doses. Twenty varicella cases were identified for an overall attack rate of 2.0%. Half of the cases occurred in the classroom of the index case-patient, a two-dose recipient who was not isolated after symptom onset. Breakthrough varicella accounted for 95% of cases (19/20) with attack rates of 14.3% (1/7), 1.6% (6/362) and 2.0% (13/649) among unvaccinated, one-dose, and two-dose students, respectively. Most case-patients (18/20, 90%) had <50 lesions. No difference in clinical presentations was found between one-dose and two-dose recipients with breakthrough varicella.


    Moderate two-dose varicella vaccine coverage was insufficient to prevent a varicella outbreak. Two-dose recipients with breakthrough varicella are contagious. High two-dose varicella vaccine coverage and timely isolation of cases may be needed for varicella outbreak prevention in the two-dose era.

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