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Asthma and risk of breakthrough varicella infection in children

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We recently reported a more rapid waning of vaccine-induced humoral immunity (measles vaccine) in children with asthma. It is unknown if asthma affects susceptibility to vaccine-preventable diseases.


To determine whether asthma is associated with an increased risk of vaccine-preventable disease, e.g., breakthrough varicella infection.


This was a retrospective population-based case-control study that examined cases of breakthrough varicella among children between 2005 and 2011. Children with a diagnosis of breakthrough varicella infection in Olmsted County, Minnesota (infection of >42 days after vaccination) between 2005 and 2011 and two age- and sex-matched controls were enrolled for each case. Asthma status was determined by using predetermined criteria. Conditional logistic regression models were used to calculate matched odds ratios (OR) and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI).


Of the 165 cases and their 330 matched controls, 48% were boys and the mean (standard deviation) age at the index date was 6.6 ± 3.5 years for both cases and controls. Of the 330 controls, 80 (24%) had two doses of the varicella vaccine compared with only 23 (14%) of the 165 cases (OR 0.29 [95% CI, 0.14‐0.61]; p = 0.001). Children with a history of asthma ever had a higher risk of developing breakthrough varicella compared with those without a history of asthma (adjusted OR 1.63 [95% CI, 1.04‐2.55]; p = 0.032) when adjusting for elapsed time since the first varicella vaccination and the number of varicella vaccine doses.


A history of asthma might be an unrecognized risk factor for breakthrough varicella infection. Children with asthma should follow the two-dose varicella vaccine policy.
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Keywords: Asthma; Varicella; breakthrough infection; children; epidemiology; humoral immunity; immunity; vaccine; waning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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