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Estimating burden of disease (BoD) is an essential first step in the decision-making process on introducing new vaccines into national immunisation programmes (NIPs). For varicella, a common vaccine-preventable disease, BoD in the Netherlands was unknown.


To assess national varicella BoD and compare it to BoD of other vaccine-preventable diseases before their introduction in the NIP.


In this health estimates reporting study, BoD was expressed in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) using methodology from the Burden of Communicable Diseases in Europe (BCoDE)-project. As no parameters/disease model for varicella (including herpes zoster) were available in the BCoDE toolkit, incidence, disease progression model and parameters were derived from seroprevalence, healthcare registries and published data. For most other diseases, BoD was estimated with existing BCoDE-parameters, adapted to the Netherlands if needed.


In 2017, the estimated BoD of varicella in the Netherlands was 1,800 (95% uncertainty interval (UI): 1,800–1,900) DALYs. Herpes zoster mainly contributed to this BoD (1,600 DALYs; 91%), which was generally lower than the BoD of most current NIP diseases in the year before their introduction into the NIP. However, BoD for varicella was higher than for rotavirus gastroenteritis (1,100; 95%UI: 440–2,200 DALYs) and meningococcal B disease (620; 95%UI: 490–770 DALYs), two other potential NIP candidates.


When considering the introduction of a new vaccine in the NIP, BoD is usually estimated in isolation. The current approach assesses BoD in relation to other vaccine-preventable diseases’ BoD, which may help national advisory committees on immunisation and policymakers to set vaccination priorities.


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