A clinical trial published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that the live attenuated herpes zoster vaccine appeared to be safe for people living with HIV who are virally suppressed.
In younger people with a fully functioning immune system, herpes zoster (shingles) usually clears up within 10-15 days. When the immune system is weakened, for example by HIV, herpes zoster can spread in the body, causing potentially fatal conditions, such as encephalitis.
Researchers randomized 395 people with undetectable viral loads and CD4 cell counts of 200 cells/μL or higher 3:1 to receive two doses of the vaccine six weeks apart or placebos. Participants were followed for another six weeks after the second dose.
The frequency and severity of adverse events was not significantly different, statistically, between the two arms. Antibody levels were higher in those receiving the vaccine compared to the placebo, indicating that the vaccine elicited an immune response. That response was greater among participants with CD4 counts ≥ 350 cells/μL compared to lower counts.
While the study findings support the safety and immunogenicity of the live vaccine, it was insufficiently powered to conclusively assess efficacy of the live vaccine or a recombinant adjuvanted vaccine for an HIV-positive population, study authors concluded.
The findings published in this study are similar to earlier data presented at the 2012 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections by Constance Benson, M.D., who is also the lead author of the newly published research.