Study shows effectiveness of shingles vaccine in seniors

A recent Kaiser Permanente study of 300,000 people has shown that the herpes zoster vaccine was associated with a 55 percent reduced chance of developing shingles in adults 60 years and older.

This retrospective study used a large, diverse population of men and women 60 years and older, finding that the reduced risk of shingles occurred across all sub-groups, which included healthy people and those with chronic conditions like heart and lung disease and diabetes.

The study had different results from a clinical trial that found the vaccine was less effective for people older than 75. In the Kaiser Permanente study, the vaccine was just as effective for adults over 75 as it was for all adults over 60.

"Our study shows the vaccine has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of cases of shingles, a painful, lingering disease," Hung Fu Tseng, the lead author of the study and a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, California, said. "We suggest clinicians follow the CDC's recommendations to talk to their patients about the option of vaccination against this serious condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends the vaccine to all eligible patients, the herpes zoster vaccine has only been administered to about 10 percent of adults 60 years and older as of 2009.

"The risk of developing shingles during a lifetime is about 30 percent," Rafael Harpaz, the study's co-author, said. "It is therefore reassuring to confirm results of the original clinical trial that herpes zoster vaccine is effective at preventing this painful disease."