Prophylactic vaccination with a live-attenuated herpes zoster vaccine in lung transplant candidates

Lei Wang, Erik A M Verschuuren, Davy Paap, Christien Rondaan, Elisabeth Raveling-Eelsing, Johanna Westra, Nicolaas A Bos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Herpes zoster (HZ) is caused by the reactivation of varicella–zoster virus (VZV). Patients with lung transplants are at high risk for HZ owing to their immunocompromised status and the need for lifelong immunosuppression. In this study, patients on the waiting list for lung transplantation were vaccinated by a live-attenuated HZ vaccine (Zostavax, Merck Sharp & Dohme), and the safety and immunogenicity of this vaccine were studied. METHODS: In total, 105 patients with end-stage pulmonary disease (ESPD) were enrolled (68 participants received 1 dose of Zostavax and 37 participants were enrolled as unvaccinated controls). Among them, 43 patients underwent lung transplantation and were followed up for further analysis. VZV immunoglobulin G antibody titers and VZV-specific cell-mediated immunity (CMI) on multiple time points before and after vaccination and before and after transplantation were measured. RESULTS: Immune response to Zostavax was higher in younger patients, highest within 3 months after vaccination, and not influenced by gender or type of ESPD. Age, cytomegalovirus serostatus, and immunity to VZV at baseline impacted the subsequent immune response to the vaccine. Short-term immunosuppressant treatment had strong effects on VZV CMI levels, which returned to a high level at 6 months after transplantation in vaccinated patients. Zostavax did not impact infection or rejection rate after transplantation. CONCLUSIONS: Zostavax was safe and induced a robust humoral and cellular response for patients awaiting lung transplantation regardless of the type of ESPD. Patients younger than the recommended vaccination age of over 50 years showed a strong response and could also benefit from pre-transplant immunization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1445-1454
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number12
Early online date25-Sep-2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2020


  • lung transplantation
  • herpes zoster
  • HZ vaccine
  • vaccination
  • prophylactic
  • AGE

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