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Recently approved vaccine for shingles shows promise over leading vaccine, but could cause adverse s

A recently approved vaccine for shingles is showing promise in its ability to prevent more cases of the disease in adults aged 50 years and older.

The recently approved adjuvant recombinant subunit vaccine has the potential to prevent more cases of herpes zoster than a live attenuated vaccine, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (Oct. 25, 2018).

The adjuvant recombinant subunit vaccine, which has been approved in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Japan, was shown to be “statistically superior” to the live attenuated vaccine and placebo in treating patients with physician-confirmed herpes zoster and suspected herpes zoster.

“There haven’t been any head-to-head studies comparing the two shingles vaccines, so the results from our systematic review can be employed by policy-makers, clinicians, and patients to make their decisions on the use of these vaccines,” said Dr. Andrea Tricco, a scientist with St. Michael’s Hospital’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health who headed the study, in a press release.

Photo of shingles skin rash by Preston Hunt from

Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

However, the medication is also statistically more likely to cause adverse effects at the injection site, compared to the live attenuated vaccine or a placebo, according to the study results.

Systemic adverse effects from the adjuvant recombinant subunit vaccine, like headache and muscle pain, were also more likely, compared to placebo.

Furthermore, the live attenuated vaccine produced fewer withdrawals due to adverse events compared to the adjuvant recombinant subunit vaccine.

However, for patients with no history of herpes zoster, the likelihood of adverse events at injection site with the adjuvant recombinant subunit vaccine was no different than the statistical likelihood from the live attenuated vaccine.

The study, titled Efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of herpes zoster vaccines in adults aged 50 and older: systematic review and network meta-analysis, consisted of 27 studies published between 1998 and 2017, that included a total of more than two million patients. Participants included in the study were 50 years or older.

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