Study finds that shingles, pneumococcal vaccines can be given together

A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that administering both the herpes zoster and the pneumococcal vaccines to patients at the same time does not appear to compromise the protective effect of the zoster vaccine.

The new information may be important to patients who find it less costly and more convenient to receive both vaccines from their healthcare providers at the same time. A revision to the zoster vaccine package insert, approved in 2009, said that the vaccines should not be given together because of reduced immune response in the zoster vaccine.

"Our study found no evidence that receiving the zoster vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine on the same day would compromise the immune response necessary to protect against herpes zoster, also known as shingles," Hung Fu Tseng, lead author and a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente department of research and evaluation in Pasadena, Calif., said.

In comparing two groups, one receiving both vaccines at the same time and one that received them nonconcurrently, the study found no statistically significant difference in incidence of shingles between the two groups.

"Ideally, when a new vaccine is introduced to the public, one should consider giving it at the same time as other vaccines to increase coverage levels and minimize administration costs, if there are no immune response issues or safety concerns,” Tseng said.

The package label change was approved by the FDA in 2009 based on a research study by Merck that found the antibody levels to the herpes zoster virus to be lowered if the vaccine was administered at the same time. That study relied on antibody level as the marker of protection, but Tseng said the cell-mediated immunity against the herpes virus is the more effective indicator.

"This new study provides even stronger data because it relies on the measurement of the occurrence of disease rather than intermediate markers of immunity," Tseng said.