In a study summarized in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics, scientists from the University of Michigan report the vaccine has saved hundreds of millions of dollars since its introduction in 1995 by preventing the kinds of severe chicken pox cases that used to send children, teens and adults to the hospital.
It is even more effective -- and cost-effective -- than originally predicted at preventing hospitalizations, the study found.
The widespread immunity created by the vaccination of most children even appears to protect people who haven't had the shot. Fewer infections among kids means less exposure for teens and adults who have not had the disease or the vaccine and who are most likely to need hospital treatment should they get it.
"The results show an annual savings of $100 million since the varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine was introduced, just in the cost of hospital care for people with severe cases," wrote lead author Matthew M. Davis.