Shingles vaccine safe for end-stage renal disease patients

By Stephen Feller  |  Dec. 16, 2015 at 4:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A new study found elderly patients with end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, who received the shingles vaccine were 50 percent less likely to be infected with shingles.

Shingles itself poses a risk for people over age 65, as a separate recent study found shingles patients are more than twice as likely as other people over age 65 to have a stroke and nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack in the first week after diagnosis.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox. ESRD patients have a 72 percent greater chance of contracting the infection, which poses a significant risk to their health, like other infections they are at greater risk for because of the kidney condition.

"Previously the shingles vaccine was not widely given to patients on dialysis due to concerns of possible side effects and questions regarding its efficacy," said Dr. Hung Fu Tseng, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation, in a press release. "Our study offers new real-world data to support the Centers for Disease Control's recommendation that elderly patients with chronic renal failure receive the shingles vaccine, if medically eligible."

Researchers at the managed care company followed 582 patients who received the vaccine from 2007 to 2013, comparing them to 2,910 ESRD patients who did not. They found patients who received the vaccine had a 50 percent lower rate of shingles, and the three-year risk for the infection was 4.1 percent for the vaccinated and 6.6 percent for those who did not get it.

In addition to the greater health risk ESRD patients already face, a study conducted at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzing medical records for 61,191 Medicare recipients found people who contract shingles are at greater risk for cardiovascular events.

In the first week after diagnosis with shingles, patients have a 2.4 times greater chance of a stroke and 1.7 times greater chance of a heart attack, though the difference faded after six months. Researchers said they were unable to judge the effects of the vaccine on this population because only 9 percent of participants had been inoculated.

"We've highlighted when patients with shingles may be most susceptible to vascular events," Caroline Minassian, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the New York Times, "so this could potentially help prevent these events."

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