Zoster vaccine is effective even for individuals who subsequently undergo chemotherapy, according to a study published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Hung Fu Tseng, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, and colleagues examined the effectiveness of zoster vaccine in patients who subsequently underwent chemotherapy. Data were included for a cohort of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members, aged 60 years or older, treated with chemotherapy.

The researchers identified 91 and 583 cases of herpes zoster in the vaccinated and unvaccinated cohorts, respectively, for an incidence rate ratio of 12.87 versus 22.05 per 1,000 person-years. The 30-month cumulative incidence was 3.28 and 5.34 percent, respectively, in the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups (P < 0.05).

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The adjusted hazard ratio was 0.58 for herpes zoster, with no significant variation by age, sex, or race. In a small subgroup of patients receiving zoster vaccine within 60 days before chemotherapy, herpes zoster incidence rates remained increased. No vaccinated patients and six unvaccinated patients underwent hospitalization for herpes zoster.

“Zoster vaccine continues to protect against herpes zoster if recipients later undergo chemotherapy,” the authors write. “Our findings provide an additional rationale for offering zoster vaccine to indicated adults while they are immunocompetent.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to Novartis Vaccines and Merck.

  1. Tseng, Hung Fu, PhD. “Vaccination Against Zoster Remains Effective in Older Adults Who Later Undergo Chemotherapy.” Clinical Infectious Disease. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu498. August 4, 2014.