January 12, 2011

Shingles Vaccine Gets the Job Done

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- There are more than 1 million episodes of shingles every year in the United States. It is a painful condition that can last months or years and can seriously impact quality of life. Getting the herpes zoster vaccine was associated with a 55-percent reduced risk of developing shingles, according to a new study.

This study observed the outcomes of the effectiveness of the herpes zoster vaccine in a large, diverse population of men and women ages 60 years and older. Researchers found a significant reduced risk of shingles across all sub-groups, including those who are healthy as well as those with chronic conditions.

These findings support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to give the vaccine to eligible patients of all ages, including those over 75 years of age. Researchers note that additional examination of the vaccine's effect in the oldest group should continue.

"Our study shows the vaccine has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of cases of shingles -- a painful, lingering disease," study lead author Hung Fu Tseng, Ph.D., M.P.H., a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif., was quoted as saying. "We suggest clinicians follow the CDC's recommendations to talk to their patients about the option of vaccination against this serious condition."

Shingles is caused by the dormant chickenpox virus, which stays in the body after a person has recovered from chickenpox. The virus can reactivate and replicate and cause shingles and damage to the nerve system. The elderly are especially vulnerable because, as we age, our immunity against the virus that causes shingles declines.

"The risk of developing shingles during a lifetime is about 30 percent. It is therefore reassuring to confirm results of the original clinical trial that herpes zoster vaccine is effective at preventing this painful disease," study co-author Rafael Harpaz, M.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was quoted as saying. "Although that trial was well done, one cannot be sure a vaccine works outside a research setting until you evaluate it in routine medical practices. In addition, our study also provided new information that the vaccine worked to prevent shingles involving the eye, which can result in very serious complications."

SOURCE: JAMA, published online January 11, 2010