Why the latest shingles vaccine is more than 90 percent effective

March 7, 2018, Westmead Institute for Medical Research
Credit: National Cancer Institute

A new study has shown how the body's immune system responds to the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, making it more than 90% effective at protecting against the virus.

The trial included more than 15,000 participants across 18 countries in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Australia. Participants in the trial received two doses of the vaccine, with the doses given two months apart.

Lead researcher Professor Tony Cunningham from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research said the study shows that the vaccine stimulates production of a specific immune memory cell (CD4 T cells), generating a strong and sustained protection against the virus.

"The body has two types of immunity: protein antibodies and known as T cells. As the virus circulates around the body, antibodies block it from entering cells. But when the virus does get into cells your T cells try to kill those .

"Our research shows that the vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce more antibodies and it generates a 24-fold increase in T . This is 12 times higher than other less effective shingles vaccines.

The research, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, shows that Shingrix offers protection for up to four years, but Professor Cunningham believes it will last much longer.

"The second dose of the vaccine is important to ensure long-term protection," Professor Cunningham said.

"The efficacy is approximately 90% for all age groups—even for those over 70 years of age.

"This is quite remarkable because there are no other vaccines that perform nearly so well for people in their 70s and their 80s. We are seeing results comparable to those of childhood vaccinations.

"What's particularly exciting, though, is that 90% of recipients had an increased sustained across the 3-year duration of the study.

"We anticipate that this protection will actually last much, much longer. We are now measuring the efficacy of the vaccine over the next 10 years and are very optimistic about the results," he said.

Shingrix is different from most other vaccines. Many vaccines are made from a weakened form of the virus, but Shingrix is made from just a single protein—known as glycoprotein E—that comes from the outer shell of the virus.

The vaccine also contains an adjuvant—a substance that helps your body fight off the virus. It is the first shingles vaccine to combine a non-live antigen with a specifically designed adjuvant.

Shingles is a viral infection, caused by the herpes zoster virus—the same virus that causes chickenpox. The incidence of shingles increases as we get older, because the body's natural immunity declines.

"When people reach their 50s and 60s, T cell immunity declines allowing shingles to strike. That's why our adult is directed specifically at T ," Professor Cunningham said.

Most Australian adults have been infected with the herpes zoster and are at risk of shingles, even if they do not remember having chicken pox. By age 85, approximately 50% of the population will develop shingles. Vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles.

Explore further: Shingles vaccine important for older adults

More information: Anthony L Cunningham et al, Immune Responses to a Recombinant Glycoprotein E Herpes Zoster Vaccine in Adults Aged 50 Years or Older, The Journal of Infectious Diseases (2018). DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jiy095

Related Stories

Shingles vaccine important for older adults

December 4, 2017
Shingles, also referred to as herpes zoster, is a painful rash that develops as the result of reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV is responsible for varicella infection, more commonly known as chicken pox.

Chicken pox vaccine linked with shingles at the vaccination site in some children

February 9, 2018
New research in Pediatric Dermatology reports several cases of shingles that developed at the original vaccination site in healthy children after they were immunized against chicken pox. Most of these cases were initially ...

Shot may protgect against shingles

February 19, 2018
Anyone who has had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine is at risk for the painful skin condition herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles. Both diseases are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which stays in the ...

Second University of Colorado vaccine approved by FDA for shingles

October 28, 2017
The Centers for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended new treatment practices Wednesday for shingles based on a vaccine initially developed at the University of Colorado Health Sciences ...

New ACIP Adult Immunization Schedule recommends changes to shingles and MMR vaccines

February 5, 2018
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) released its 2018 Recommended Immunization Schedule for adults with changes to the administration of the herpes zoster and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. ...

Panel recommends new, better shingles shot over old version

October 25, 2017
A federal panel recommended Wednesday that older people already vaccinated for shingles get a new, better shot.

Recommended for you

Pre-clinical success for a universal flu vaccine offers hope for third generation approach

September 21, 2018
Researchers from the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology have demonstrated pre-clinical success for a universal flu vaccine in a new paper published in Nature Communications.

Fighting a deadly parasite: Scientists devise a method to store Cryptosporidium, aiding vaccine research efforts

September 21, 2018
In May, just before one of the hottest summers on record, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about diseases lurking in recreational water facilities like swimming pools and water playgrounds. ...

Scientists make significant discovery in the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis

September 20, 2018
A team of scientists have identified a naturally occurring antibiotic that may help in the fight against drug-resistant Tuberculosis.

Anti-cancer drugs may hold key to overcoming antimalarial drug resistance

September 20, 2018
Scientists have found a way to boost the efficacy of the world's most powerful antimalarial drug with the help of chemotherapy medicines, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.

Affordable Care Act: Study finds surprising gaps in HIV care providers' knowledge

September 20, 2018
A new study has revealed surprising gaps in some HIV medical providers' knowledge of the Affordable Care Act, with more than a quarter of providers surveyed unable to say whether their state had expanded Medicaid.

Preventing a dengue outbreak at the 2020 Summer Olympics

September 20, 2018
In 2014, a dengue outbreak unexpectedly occurred in Tokyo. What does that mean for the 2020 summer Olympics and Paralympics being held in the city? Researchers report this week in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases that new ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.