Long-Term Varicella Zoster Virus Immunity in Paediatric Liver Transplant Patients Can Be Achieved by Booster Vaccinations : a Single-Centre, Retrospective, Observational Analysis

Varicella is one of the most common vaccine-preventable infections after paediatric solid organ transplantation; thus, vaccination offers simple and cheap protection. However, children with liver disease often progress to liver transplantation (LT) before they reach the recommended vaccination age. As a live vaccine, varicella zoster virus (VZV) vaccination after transplantation is controversial; however, many case series demonstrate that vaccination may be safe and effective in paediatric liver transplant recipients. Only limited data exists describing long-term vaccination response in such immunocompromised patients. We investigated retrospectively vaccination response in paediatric patients before and after transplantation and describe long-term immunity over ten years, including the influence of booster-vaccinations. In this retrospective, single-centre study, 458 LT recipients were analysed between September 2004 and June 2021. Of these, 53 were re-transplantations. Patients with no available vaccination records and with a history of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease, after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and clinical chickenpox were excluded from this analysis (n = 198). In total, data on 207 children with a median annual follow-up of 6.2 years was available: 95 patients (45.9%) were unvaccinated prior to LT. Compared to healthy children, the response to vaccination, measured by seroconversion, is weaker in children with liver disease: almost 70% after one vaccination and 93% after two vaccinations. One year after transplantation, the mean titres and the number of children with protective antibody levels (VZV IgG ≥ 50 IU/L) decreased from 77.5% to 41.3%. Neither diagnosis, gender, nor age were predictors of vaccination response. Booster-vaccination was recommended for children after seroreversion using annual titre measurements and led to a significant increase in mean titre and number of protected children. Response to vaccination shows no difference from monotherapy with a calcineurin inhibitor to intensified immunosuppression by adding prednisolone or mycophenolate mofetil. Children with liver disease show weaker seroconversion rates to VZV vaccination compared to healthy children. Therefore, VZV-naïve children should receive basic immunization with two vaccine doses as well as those vaccinated only once before transplantation. An average of 2-3 vaccine doses are required in order to achieve a long-term seroconversion and protective antibody levels in 95% of children.


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