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BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7504.1351 (Published 09 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1351
  1. Christopher Martyn (cmartyn@bmj.com), associate editor

    Vaccination of elderly people can prevent herpes zoster

    Herpes zoster and its deeply unpleasant complication, post-herpetic neuralgia, occur more frequently with increasing age, a phenomenon explained by waning cell mediated immunity to the virus. Although antiviral therapy reduces the severity and duration of the rash, it is ineffective in preventing the development of post-herpetic neuralgia. The results of a large randomised controlled trial of vaccination against Varicella zoster virus in people aged over 60 suggest that prevention may be better than cure.

    Credit: NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE

    Compared with placebo, vaccination with live attenuated Varicella zoster vaccine reduced the incidence of herpes zoster by 51.3% and of post-herpetic neuralgia by 66.5%. No severe adverse reactions occurred, although transient local symptoms, mainly varicella-like rashes at the site of injection, were common. With an annual incidence of herpes zoster in the placebo group of about 1 in 100, the number needed to treat is large. But the accompanying editorial reckons that, at …

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