Shingles Vaccine Only Partially Effective (Does Efficacy Decline with Age?)

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vaccine for shingles

A concern is that the herpes zoster vaccine’s efficacy … declines with increasing age. – Advances in Pharmacology

The herpes zoster virus establishes a lifelong, latent infection. Reactivation of the virus causes a very painful “shingles” outbreak.

Studies showed that the shingles vaccine, developed by Merck pharmaceuticals, reduces herpes zoster by up to 51.3% in those who were vaccinated (1). However, the vaccine has many limitations, and a new VZV …vaccine is currently being developed to enhance…immune responses (1).”

Zostavax (the shingles vaccine) is, essentially, a larger-than-normal dose of Varivax, the chickenpox vaccine, as both shingles (prevented by Zostavax) and chickenpox (prevented by Varivax…) are caused by the same virus, Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). (June 2005, New England Journal of Medicine) (2).” This vaccine was approved in 2006 by the FDA for use in people over the age of 60.

herpes zoster

According to the study’s authors, some of the major concerns about the shingles vaccine include “the costs of administration, the overall health care costs to society, and the acceptance and implementation of the vaccine in the elderly (1)”. The authors further noted that “additional doses of the herpes zoster vaccine did not give improved immune responses in (the) elderly (1).”

Moreover, “It needs to be mentioned that a live (shingles vaccine) cannot be given to immunosuppressed patients and this patient population is at high risk for developing herpes zoster. (1)”


(1) Andrei G, Snoeck R. “Advances in the treatment of varicella-zoster virus infections.”Adv Pharmacol. 2013;67:107-68

(2) Oxman MN1, Levin MJ, Johnson GR, Schmader KE, Straus SE, Gelb LD, Arbeit RD, Simberkoff MS, Gershon AA, Davis LE, Weinberg A, Boardman KD, Williams HM, Zhang JH, Peduzzi PN, Beisel CE, Morrison VA, Guatelli JC, Brooks PA, Kauffman CA, Pachucki CT, Neuzil KM, Betts RF, Wright PF, Griffin MR, Brunell P, Soto NE, Marques AR, Keay SK, Goodman RP, Cotton DJ, Gnann JW Jr, Loutit J, Holodniy M, Keitel WA, Crawford GE, Yeh SS, Lobo Z, Toney JF, Greenberg RN, Keller PM, Harbecke R, Hayward AR, Irwin MR, Kyriakides TC, Chan CY, Chan IS, Wang WW, Annunziato PW, Silber JL; Shingles Prevention Study Group. “A vaccine to prevent herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia in older adults.” N Engl J Med. 2005 Jun 2;352(22):2271-84.


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