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BACKGROUND:A new formulation of the live-attenuated varicella vaccine Varilrix (GSK) produced without human serum albumin (HSA) was developed to minimize a theoretical risk of transmission of infectious diseases. A previous study showed that the vaccine was immunologically non-inferior to the HSA-containing vaccine and well-tolerated in toddlers; low-grade fever was numerically higher in children receiving the vaccine without HSA, but the study lacked power to conclude on this difference. METHODS:In this phase III, double-blind, multi-center study, healthy 12-23-month-olds were randomized (1:1) to receive two doses of the varicella vaccine without (Var-HSA group) or with HSA (Var + HSA group) at days 0 and 42. The primary objective compared safety of the vaccines in terms of incidence of fever > 39.0 °C in the 15-day period post-first vaccination. The objective was considered met if the upper limit of the 95% confidence interval for the between-group difference in the incidence of fever > 39.0 °C was ≤5% (Var-HSA group minus Var + HSA group). Safety, reactogenicity and immune responses were evaluated. RESULTS:Six hundred fifteen children in the Var-HSA group and 616 in the Var + HSA group received ≥1 vaccination. Fever > 39.0 °C was reported in 3.9 and 5.2% of participants in the Var-HSA and Var + HSA groups, with a between-group difference of - 1.29 (95% confidence interval: - 3.72-1.08); therefore, the primary objective was achieved. Fever rates post-each dose and the incidence of solicited local and general adverse events (AEs) were comparable between groups. Unsolicited AEs were reported for 43.9 and 36.5% of children in the Var-HSA group and 45.8 and 36.0% of children in the Var + HSA group, during 43 days post-dose 1 and 2, respectively. Serious AEs occurred in 2.1% (group Var-HSA) and 2.4% (group Var + HSA) of children, throughout the study. In a sub-cohort of 364 children, all had anti-varicella-zoster virus antibody concentrations ≥50 mIU/mL post-dose 2; comparable geometric mean concentrations were observed between the groups. CONCLUSIONS:The varicella vaccine formulated without HSA did not induce higher rates of fever during the 15 day-post-vaccination period, as compared with the original HSA-containing vaccine. The two vaccines displayed similar safety and immunogenicity profiles in toddlers. TRIAL REGISTRATION:NCT02570126 , registered on 5 October 2015 (

Original publication




Journal article


BMC pediatrics

Publication Date





NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility, University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD, UK.