A new study of the shingles vaccine has found it is generally safe and well tolerated and produces only rare, minor reactions in a fraction of people who get the shot.
The Vaccine Safety Datalink study, published online in the Journal of Internal Medicine, involved 193,083 adults who received the inoculation, also known as the herpes zoster vaccine.
Every year, more than 1 million Americans develop shingles, a painful contagious rash caused by the dormant chickenpox virus that reactivate and damage the nerve system. Seniors are especially vulnerable because immunity against the virus declines with age.
The new study of the shingles vaccine’s safety was conducted by the VSD project – a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health care organizations, including Kaiser Permanente, designed to track immunization safety.
For the study, researchers examined adverse events after the vaccine was given to adults aged 50 and older in 2007 and 2008. Researchers found a small increased risk of local reactions – typically redness and pain -- from 1 to 7 days after vaccination. But the study found no increase in cerebrovascular diseases; cardiovascular diseases; meningitis, encephalitis, and encephalopathy; Ramsay-Hunt syndrome; or Bell's palsy.
"It's good to know there is no serious adverse reaction to the zoster vaccine,” said lead researcher Hung Fu Tseng, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente. “The study supports the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendation and reassures the general public that the vaccine is safe,"
The vaccine was licensed in 2006, but few people have received it, national data show. The ACIP recommends the shot for healthy people ages 60 years and older. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use for adults in their 50s. Researchers said the new study confirms its safety for people in their 50s, as well as adults 60 and older.