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Impact of a publicly funded herpes zoster immunization program on the burden of disease in Ontario, Canada: a population-based study


Background — In September 2009, a live attenuated herpes zoster vaccine (ZVL) became available in Canada. Beginning in September 2016, ZVL was made available to all Ontario residents aged 65 to 70 through a publicly funded immunization program. We assessed the impact of ZVL availability and its subsequent public funding on herpes zoster burden in this population.

Methods — We conducted a population-based study of Ontario residents aged 65 to 70 between January 2005 and September 2018. We used interventional autoregressive integrated moving average models to examine the impact of ZVL market availability and the publicly funded ZVL program on the monthly incidence rate of medically attended herpes zoster, defined as an outpatient visit for herpes zoster with a prescription for a herpes zoster antiviral dispensed within five days before or after the visit, or a herpes zoster-related emergency department (ED) visit or hospitalization. In secondary analyses, we examined the impacts on any herpes zoster-related ED visits and hospitalizations.

Results — We found no association between ZVL market availability and monthly incidence of herpes zoster (p=0.32) or monthly rates of ED visits and hospitalizations (p=0.88). Conversely, the introduction of publicly funded ZVL reduced the monthly rate of medically attended herpes zoster by 19.1% (from 4.8 to 3.8 per 10,000 population; p<0.01) and herpes zoster-related ED visits and hospitalizations by 38.2% (from 1.7 to 1.0 per 10,000 population; p< 0.05).

Conclusion — The introduction of a publicly funded immunization program for herpes zoster was associated with reduced disease burden and related acute healthcare service use.



Martins D, McCormack D, Tadrous M, Gomes T, Kwong JC, Mamdani MM, Buchan SA, Antoniou T. Clin Infect Dis. 2021; 72(2):279-84. Epub 2020 Jan 10.

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