Shingles Vaccine Does Work but Not as Effective for
Seniors Over 70
Among older adults who get the vaccine almost 50%
have reduced risk of acquiring the painful disease
Sharyn Alden, Contributing Writer, Health Behavior News Service
Oct. 18, 2012 – The shingles vaccine works, but it
works better for those under 70 years old, according to a new evidence
review from The Cochrane Library. Shingles, which originates from the
same virus as the childhood disease chickenpox, is painful and can
severely impact quality of life for weeks or months.
Older adults who get the shingles vaccine have a
nearly 50 percent reduced risk of developing the often debilitating
disease, finds a new evidence review from.
The vaccine is more effective for those 60 to 69
years old compared with people 70 and older since younger adults
typically have a stronger immune system. However, those in their 60s may
experience more frequent side effects from the vaccine.
“The herpes zoster disease is an extremely painful
condition that impacts the quality of patients’ lives. People over 60
are particularly susceptible to developing the disease, but fortunately
nowadays we have a vaccine for it,” says lead study author, Anna
Gagliardi, Ph.D., professor of geriatrics and gerontology at Federal
University in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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The shingles virus remains dormant in the nervous
system of anyone who had chickenpox. Later in life, when the immune
system is more compromised, the virus may reappear in the form of
shingles, a painful inflammation of sensory nerves.
Gagilardi noted, “Adults over 70 have less immunity
reaction from the vaccine, but the vaccine works. In general, the
vaccine is well tolerated and it produces few systemic adverse reactions
and only a mild or moderate adverse reaction at the site of the
Researchers analyzed the effectiveness of the
zoster vaccine from eight randomized controlled trials that included
52,259 people in several European countries and the U.S. The principal
study, the Shingles Prevention Study, followed 38,546 participants for
at least 3 years and one month after being vaccinated.
Jonathan S. Anderson, M.D., internist with the Dean
Health System in Madison, Wisconsin, said, “The meta-analysis confirms
what we knew before and what we see in practice: that the zoster vaccine
reduces the risk of developing shingles over subsequent years.
“Over the three years the study looked at the
effects of the vaccine, the risk was cut in half. Fifty people would
need to receive the vaccine for one person to benefit by not getting
shingles. This is reasonable given that shingles is not only very
painful, it can develop into a chronically painful condition which is
often difficult to treat.”
Anderson added, “While the results of the study
weren’t surprising it may provide some impetus to vaccinate people
sooner when they are still in their 60s instead of waiting and
continuing to discuss it with patients over time.”