Experimental HZ Subunit Vaccine Studied in Older Adults

HealthDay News — An experimental vaccine against herpes zoster may offer lasting protection for most older adults who receive it, according to a study published in the September 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new trial involved 13,900 adults age 70 and older. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 2 doses of the herpes zoster subunit vaccine (HZ/su) containing recombinant varicella-zoster virus glycoprotein E and the AS01B adjuvant system, or 2 doses of a placebo.

The researchers found that the experimental vaccine protected 89.8% of adults age 70 and up. During a mean follow-up of 3.7 years, only 23 vaccine recipients developed herpes zoster, compared to 223 placebo recipients. There were short-lived side effects, such as pain at the injection site, fatigue, or muscle pain; however, serious adverse events occurred with similar frequencies in the 2 study groups.

“In our trial, HZ/su was found to reduce the risks of herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia among adults 70 years of age or older,” the authors write.

The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the developer of HZ/su.

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  1. Cunningham AL, Lal H, Kovac M, et al. Efficacy of the herpes zoster subunit vaccine in adults 70 years of age or older. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:1019-1032. doi: 10.1056/NEJMia1603800
  2. Neuzil KM, Griffin MR, et al. Preventing shingles and its complications in older persons. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:1079-1080. doi: 10.1056/NEJMe1610652