The herpes zoster vaccine is effective in protecting older adults against shingles, even if they later undergo chemotherapy, according to new research. The findings were published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In a cohort study of >21,000 patients aged ≥60 years that received chemotherapy between January 2007 and December 2012, the incidence rate of herpes zoster was 12.87 in the vaccinated cohort (95% CI, 10.48–15.80) vs. 22.05 in the non-vaccinated cohort (95% CI, 20.33–23.92) per 1,000 person-years. The patients receiving the herpes zoster vaccine were 42% less likely to develop shingles following chemotherapy. Although the incidence of shingles increased in the small subgroup of patients receiving the herpes zoster vaccine within 60 days prior to chemotherapy, this was the only group impacted by the indication bias. No patients that received the vaccine were hospitalized for shingles after chemotherapy, compared to 6 unvaccinated patients that required hospitalization.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults ≥60 years of age receive the herpes zoster vaccine to reduce the risk of developing shingles and prevent long-term complications associated with the virus. The study authors add that these results add to the existing support for zoster vaccine administration to indicated adults while they are immunocompetent.

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