Vaccinating older adults against the varicella zoster virus would greatly reduce their risk of developing shingles, a US study has shown.
Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centre in southern California found the vaccine reduced cases of the disease by 55%.
The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that people in their 70s should be given a vaccine to protect against shingles, provided a licensed vaccine can be obtained at a reasonable cost.
The new research supports this view by demonstrating that vaccinating people over 60 years is effective at reducing incidence of shingles in later life.
To assess the efficacy of the vaccine, researchers studied records of more than 75,000 people vaccinated against shingles. These were matched to 227,283 control patients who had not be given a varicella zoster virus vaccine.
In total, patients developed 5,434 cases of shingles. Among vaccinated adults there were 6.4 cases of disease per 1,000 persons per year, compared with 13 per 1,000 among unvaccinated patients. Vaccinated individuals were also less likely to have ophthalmic herpes zoster or be hospitalised than unvaccinated individuals.
The researchers concluded: 'We found that individuals aged 60 years or older who received herpes zoster vaccine had a reduced risk of herpes zoster regardless of age, race and presence of chronic diseases.'
They added that one episode of herpes zoster would be averted for every 71 individuals receiving the vaccine.