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Independents' Day

Call to use herpes zoster vaccine in older people

By Emma Wilkinson

The herpes zoster vaccine should be routinely used to protect older people from shingles, say US researchers.

A trial of 38,500 over 60s – 6,600 of whom took part in an adverse events analysis – found that the vaccine was well-tolerated with no apparent severe side effects.

It backs earlier work showing that - over three years - the vaccine cuts herpes zoster episodes by half and the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by two thirds in older adults.

The adverse events reported in the study were mainly local reactions to inoculation, such as rash or swelling and rates of serious adverse events (1.4%) were the same in the vaccine and placebo group.

Those who did suffer redness or tenderness at the injection site were more likely to be 60-69 than in the over 70 age group.

Study leader Professor Michael Simberkoff, head of medicine at the Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Hospital concluded: ‘The substantial protection the vaccine provides especially against postherpetic neuralgia and its safety profile, it should be recommended for "routine use in immunocompetent older adults, who are at increased risk for herpes zoster and its complications.

Annals of Internal Medicine 2010; 152: 545-54.

The shingles vaccine is well tolerated in older patients

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