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Study confirms safety of herpes zoster vaccine

Monday April 23, 2012
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The herpes zoster vaccine is generally safe and well tolerated according to a Vaccine Safety Datalink study of 193,083 adults.

More than 1 million people develop shingles every year in the United States, according to background information for the study, which appears in the May issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine. The elderly are especially vulnerable because immunity against the virus that causes shingles declines with age.

The study examined adverse events after the zoster vaccine was administered to 193,083 adults ages 50 and older from Jan. 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2008. Vaccination data were retrieved from electronic health records and collected from eight managed care organizations participating in the VSD project.

Researchers found a small increased risk of local reactions from one to seven days after vaccination. These findings corroborate clinical trials of the vaccine in which there was evidence of a minor local reaction at the injection site in the form of redness and pain.

The study found no increased risk for cerebrovascular diseases, cardiovascular diseases, meningitis, encephalitis and encephalopathy, Ramsay-Hunt syndrome or Bellís palsy.

"Itís good to know there is no serious adverse reaction to the zoster vaccine," Hung Fu Tseng, PhD, MPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif., said in a news release.

"The study supports the CDCís Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation and reassures the general public that the vaccine is safe."

The herpes zoster vaccine was licensed in 2006, but few people have been vaccinated, according to the news release. The ACIP recommends the vaccine for healthy people ages 60 and older. In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the herpes zoster vaccine in individuals ages 50 to 59. The new study results provide important safety data for people in both age groups.

The VSD project is a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and integrated care organizations. The project monitors immunization safety and addresses the gaps in scientific knowledge about any rare and serious events that occur following immunization.

To view the data and access the study via subscription or purchase, visit http://bit.ly/Ikwq0h.

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