Chickenpox vaccine increases shingles risk in younger age group than previously realized

Vaccinating children against chickenpox could temporarily nearly double the incidence of shingles in adults, but in younger adults than previously thought, according to recent research to be published in the journal eLife.

Scientists from the Universities of Antwerp and Hasselt in Belgium predict that a temporary rise in shingles cases will dominate 31- to 40-year-olds, which is a younger age group than previously predicted. This age group will not likely develop the most serious shingles symptoms.

The scientists also developed a new model on the length of time re-exposure to chickenpox boosts immunity to shingles based on real immunological and virological data from individuals. Previously, the effect was estimated to last up to 20 years, but the model shows it only lasts two years.

"We were surprised to find that re-exposure to chickenpox is beneficial for so few years and also that the most pronounced effect of vaccination on increasing cases of shingles is in younger adults," said lead author Benson Ogunjimi, MD, PhD. "Our findings should allay some fears about implementing childhood chickenpox vaccination."



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