Varicella vaccines have been available for private purchase in Canada since 1998. Ontario introduced universal varicella vaccination in 2004. The authors assessed the effects of private availability of varicella vaccines and subsequent implementation of universal vaccination on varicella-related hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) use, and visits to physicians’ offices in Ontario. Rates of hospitalizations, ED use, and office visits decreased 53% (95% CI, 48–58%), 43% (95% CI, 41–44%), and 45% (95% CI, 44–45%) after universal vaccination, compared to only 9% (95% CI, 4–14%), 23% (95% CI, 22–24%), and 29% (95% CI, 28–29%) after private availability. Variicella vaccination is effective at reducing varicella-related health care use, with benefits extending beyond those who receive the vaccine. Universal vaccination programs may be more effective than private vaccine availability.
Health care utilization