Booster Dose to Prevent Herpes Zoster Helpful For Seniors

Participants in the study group aged 50-59 had the best immune response.

A booster of herpes zoster vaccine may provide important additional protection for adults ≥70 years, according to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Myron J. Levin, MD, and colleagues from the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus reported data on the immunogenicity of a second herpes zoster (ZV) dose given 10 or more years apart to 199 participants ≥70. Researchers also examined the immunogenicity of a first dose of ZV given to 3 other groups categorized by age: 50-59 years (98 participants), 60-69 years (100 participants) and ≥70 (194 participants).

Research participants had a history of varicella or had lived in the United States more than 30 years without a history of herpes zoster virus.

Immunoglobin G (IgG) was at its highest for all groups at 6 weeks, Dr Levin and colleagues reported, and IgG response was similar for the treatment groups.1,2  Although advanced age resulted in lower baseline and cell-mediated immune (CMI) responses, enzyme-linked immunospot assays showed interferon-γ and interleukin 2 for patients ≥70 who had received the second booster dose were higher than the group who only received 1 dose, performing similarly to the first dose 60-69 age group.

The researchers said this finding indicated “that a residual effect of ZV on VZV-specific CMI persisted for ≥10 years and was enhanced by the booster dose.” Participants in the study group aged 50-59 had the best immune response, which prompted to Dr Levin’s group to hypothesize that giving the first dose at this age may make the booster more effective later.

In an accompanying editorial commentary, D. Scott Schmid, PhD,of the Herpesvirus Group and National VZV Laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia noted that no serious adverse effects occurred, and that the study “provides an important preliminary insight into the acquired immune responses to a second dose of zoster vaccine in persons ≥70 years of age.”

Researchers explained that the results of their study “support further investigation of administration of ZV at an early age versus at a later age and further investigation of a booster dose for elderly individuals at an appropriate interval after initial immunization against HZ.”


1. Levin MJ, Schmader MJ, Pang L. Cellular and humoral responses to a second dose of herpes zoster vaccine administered 10 years after the first dose among older adults. J Infect Dis. 2016;213 (1):14–22.

2. Schmid DS. Boosting immunity in recipients of live-attenuated zoster vaccine. J Infect Dis. 2016;213(1):1-2.