Empirical data on the varicella situation in Germany for vaccination decisions.
As epidemiological data concerning varicella in Germany were not available, a retrospective study was conducted to investigate the impact of the disease, focusing also on economic aspects. A representative German-wide sample of 1334 unvaccinated varicella cases was obtained in 1999 from randomly selected paediatric (P) and general, as well as internal, mainly adult (A), practices. Following representative weighting, the median age was 5 years, with 90% of cases aged< 12 years. The highest incidence was in children aged 5-6 years. Varicella-related complications occurred in 5.7% of patients, and accounted for 0.1 hospital days/case on average. Certificates of sick leave were issued for 1.3 sick days/case, with 0.6 days paid by health insurance funds to parents caring for their sick child, and 0.7 days paid by the employer. With an annual incidence of 760,000 diagnosed cases in Germany for the year 1999, this amounts to an annual cost of c.150 million Euro, with c. 50 million Euro paid by the statutory health insurance system. It was concluded that universal varicella vaccination in Germany would provide essential clinical improvements for patients and prevent hospital admissions. In addition, significant economic benefits can be expected, mainly because of the high level of indirect health costs in Germany.