Vaccine against herpes zoster halves incidence in older people, finds study

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 12 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2349
  1. Sophie Ramsey
  1. 1BMJ

Adults over 65 years old are half as likely to develop shingles if they are vaccinated against it and are also less likely to develop post-herpetic neuralgia, a large US study has found.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia looked at a sample of 766 330 US adults aged over 65 years who were eligible to receive the vaccine between 2007 and 2009. Their findings are published in PLoS Medicine.1

The study found that despite the vaccine being recommended in the United States for all people aged over 60 years, only 3.9% of the study sample had taken up the offer. Uptake was particularly low among black people (0.3%) and people on low incomes (0.6%).

Altogether 13 112 of the sample developed shingles, and the incidence was twice as high among people who were unvaccinated. The overall incidence was 10 cases per 1000 person years in the unvaccinated group and 5.4 per 1000 in the vaccinated group, giving an adjusted vaccine effectiveness of 0.48 (95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.56).

Among people who developed shingles, fewer who had been vaccinated had post-herpetic neuralgia at 30 days and 90 days. Researchers calculated the vaccine effectiveness against post-herpetic neuralgia at 90 days to be 0.59 (0.21 to 0.79).

A decision on whether the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will offer vaccination against herpes zoster to people aged 70-79 years is expected later this year.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2349