Immune response of elderly individuals to a live attenuated varicella vaccine

J Infect Dis. 1992 Aug;166(2):253-9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/166.2.253.


The Oka strain live attenuated varicella-zoster virus (VZV) vaccine was administered subcutaneously to 202 VZV-immune individuals who were 55 to greater than 87 years old. The dose administered varied from 1100 to 12,000 pfu. One cohort received 3000 pfu with a 3000 pfu booster 3 months later. The vaccine was well tolerated. VZV-specific immunologic responses were evaluated over a 24-month period. The mean anti-VZV antibody level was significantly increased for 12 months after vaccination. Interferon-gamma production in vitro by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of vaccinees was also increased for 6 months after vaccination. Most significantly, VZV-specific proliferating T cells in PBMC of vaccinees were increased in frequency from 1 in 68,000 to 1 in 40,000. This vaccine-enhanced frequency of VZV-responding T cells is similar to the frequency observed in 35- to 40-year-old adults. Dose and age of the vaccinees did not significantly influence the magnitude of the mean cell-mediated immune response. The data indicate that VZV immunity in the elderly can be boosted by active immunization. If the increased incidence of herpes zoster that accompanies aging results from the natural waning of immunity, active immunization may prevent or attenuate zoster in the elderly.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Chickenpox Vaccine
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Female
  • Herpes Zoster / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunization, Secondary
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Random Allocation
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / adverse effects
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / immunology
  • Viral Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Chickenpox Vaccine
  • Vaccines, Attenuated
  • Viral Vaccines
  • Interferon-gamma