Zoster vaccine effective in older chemotherapy patients

August 14, 2014

Herpes zoster vaccine continues to be effective in protecting older adults against shingles, even after they undergo chemotherapy, a study published August 4 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Herpes zoster vaccine continues to be effective in protecting older adults against shingles, even after they undergo chemotherapy, a study published August 4 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Hung Fu Tseng, PhD, MPH, research scientist with Kaiser Permanente (KP) Southern California, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study using data from the KP electronic health system. The occurrence of herpes zoster following chemotherapy in patients aged 60 years and older was compared between those who had been vaccinated against zoster vaccine before and those who had not.

“In particular, we found that those patients who were previously vaccinated with the vaccine were 42% less likely to develop shingles following chemotherapy treatment,” said Dr Tseng.

The researchers also found that none of the vaccinated patients under went hospitalization for shingles, while 6 unvaccinated patients were hospitalized with the disease.

“Healthcare providers should definitely talk to their older patients about the availability and efficacy of the shingles vaccine so that they can receive it when they are still able to,” said Dr Tseng. “This is especially important for those patients who are aged 60 years or older as the risk of developing cancer is relatively high for this group. These patients should be vaccinated when they are relatively healthy, or before starting immunocompromising treatments such as chemotherapy, as the vaccine isn’t advised for those who have weakened immune systems.”

About 40% of adults develop invasive cancer during their lifetimes, many of whom require chemotherapy. Herpes zoster is common and often severe in patients undergoing chemotherapy, yet there are no data regarding whether these patients retain specific protection against herpes zoster if they had previously received zoster vaccine, according to the study authors.

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