This review summarises selected literature on the use of varicella-zoster virus vaccines published from 2013 to May 2016.
Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection causes a primary infection known as chickenpox (varicella), usually in childhood. VZV remains dormant in the dorsal and trigeminal root ganglia, and may reactivate later in life, when cell-mediated immunity wanes or is suppressed, resulting in herpes zoster (HZ; shingles). Varicella is commonly seen as a mild to moderate, self-limiting disease, however, serious complications can occur in previously healthy individuals. The risk of complications increases in adolescents and adults. Secondary bacterial infections of the skin and respiratory system are the most common morbidities and more rarely VZV encephalitis. New Zealand (NZ) experiences approximately 50,000 cases of chickenpox each year, which is approximately equivalent to number in the birth cohort each year, and results in around 400 hospitalisations each year. Varicella vaccines available in New Zealand contain a live attenuated strain of VZV - the Oka strain. There are two types of vaccine available, namely, monovalent varicella vaccine (V) and combined measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine. As of July 2017, varicella vaccine will be introduced to the childhood immunisation schedule.