The 2002 United States varicella vaccine shortage and physician recommendations for vaccination.


The US experienced a shortage of varicella vaccine in 2002, leading to the concerns about its impact.

204 Minnesota and Pennsylvania physicians, most (164) of whom were interviewed in 1999 on the topic of varicella vaccine, responded to a 2003 survey.

Although 67% were aware of the 2002 varicella vaccine shortage, 24% experienced it and only 45% were aware of the 2002 temporary change in national vaccination recommendations. In response, more vaccinated until the supply was exhausted (59%) than postponed vaccination as recommended (41%). Most (91%) reported that the shortage did not change their likelihood of recommending vaccine. From 1999 to 2003, the percentage of physicians highly likely to recommend vaccination increased from 73% to 82% for children 12-18 months old (P < 0.01). In 2003, more physicians believed that it was likely for secondary skin infections to occur following varicella disease and for parents to request vaccination than in 1999 (P < 0.01). Almost all (93%) physicians in both years believed that serious side effects were unlikely.

Over half of physicians were unaware of the change in vaccine recommendations due to the shortage and many did not follow that change, suggesting the need for a different strategy.

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