Shingles vaccination poses threat to patients with high shingles risk

New research published in the BMJ on Wednesday revealed that those with the highest risk of shingles are not entitled to vaccination, due to safety concerns.

Shingles causes an acute painful rash and can eventually lead to a more serious complication called postherpetic neuralgia.

In order to determine if certain patients had an increased risk of developing shingles, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine tested a group of 144,000 U.K. adults diagnosed with shingles between 2000 and 2001 against a control group without shingles.

The study revealed that patients with conditions causing sever immunosuppression, such as HIV and leukemia, had the highest risk of shingles.

"This study has highlighted that patients arguably most in need of protection against shingles cannot currently benefit from vaccination," Harriet Forbes, the study's lead researcher from the London School of Hygiene & Topical Medicine, said. "The vaccine is live and there are concerns that giving it to patients with severe immunosuppression may cause a shingles episode. Alternative risk reduction strategies among these patients, for example the use of alternative vaccines, would help those at greatest risk of this disease and its complications."

Other conditions shown to give patients an increased risk of shingles included rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Asthma, chronic kidney disease, type 1 diabetes and depression were also shown to give patients a slight increase in shingles risk.

The shingles vaccine is currently licensed among individuals over the age of 50.