Currently, the preferable vaccine for shingles is a recombinant vaccine. However, ongoing research is investigating the potential use of mRNA vaccines for shingles.
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral infection that occurs due to the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is most common in older adults and can cause a painful, burning rash that may develop into blisters.
A recombinant vaccination, known as Shingrix, is available to help prevent shingles from developing. However, researchers are working on an mRNA vaccine for shingles.
Read on to learn more about different vaccines and vaccines for shingles.
Shingrix is a type of recombinant vaccine. This means the
Currently, there is no mRNA vaccine for shingles. However, researchers are working on a potential mRNA shingles vaccine for future use.
Previously, a live-attenuated vaccine, known as
There are many different types of vaccines. Each type has a different way of helping the immune system defend against infections. Different types of vaccines include:
Instead of using a part of a pathogen, such as a virus, like many other vaccines, these types use messenger RNA (mRNA). This is a molecule that
As such, scientists can create a piece of mRNA in a laboratory that corresponds to a pathogen protein and include it in a vaccine. This triggers an immune response and allows the immune system to produce proteins known as antibodies against this pathogen.
Therefore, following subsequent exposure to the pathogen, the body can quickly recognize it and produce antibodies to prevent a person from getting sick.
These types of vaccines use a specific part of the pathogen to help the body generate an immune response. Typically, these include either a protein, sugar, or casing of the germ. As such, after vaccination, the body can rapidly produce antibodies after encountering the pathogen.
A health expert may also refer to a recombinant vaccine as a subunit, polysaccharide, or conjugate vaccine. In addition to Shingrix, other types of commonly available recombinant vaccines include:
These vaccines use the toxin, or harmful product, a pathogen produces to generate an immune response. They create immunity to the part of the pathogen that leads to disease instead of the pathogen itself.
An example of a toxoid vaccine is the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
As the name suggests, this type uses an inactive, or killed, version of the pathogen. As the pathogen is not active, the immune system is able to create an immune response without a person getting ill. However, they do not usually provide immunity that is as strong as other vaccines.
Examples of inactivated vaccines include:
These types of vaccines use a weakened live pathogen. As they are similar to a natural infection, they generate a strong immune response. As they are attenuated, they should be unable to cause an infection. However, they may not be advisable for people with weakened immune systems.
Examples of live-attenuated vaccines include:
Viral vector vaccines use a harmless virus to deliver a piece of genetic code to cells. This trains the immune system to produce antibodies to prevent future infections.
Research into mRNA vaccines against shingles is ongoing. For example, Pfizer and BioNTech are working together to develop the first mRNA-based shingles vaccine. Previously, both companies collaborated to produce an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.
An mRNA vaccine may hold benefits over a recombinant vaccine, as researchers should be able to produce them quickly in large numbers. Additionally, while Shingrix is generally safe, the
Pfizer and BioNTech hope to begin clinical trials shortly.
Currently, the only available mRNA vaccine is the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. However, ongoing research is investigating mRNA vaccines for the following:
- other types of coronaviruses
- Clostridioides difficile
- genital herpes
- hepatitis C
Additionally, mRNA technology could potentially help against:
- genetic diseases
- heart problems
- neurodevelopmental conditions
Evidence indicates that mRNA vaccines are safe. Vaccines must undergo a
A statement from the British Society for Immunology (BSI) states that a huge amount of evidence from multiple studies suggests that mRNA vaccines are safe and effective, and the benefits far outweigh any potential risks in the majority of people.
At present, there is no mRNA vaccine for shingles. Instead, the current vaccine, known as Shingrix, is a recombinant vaccine. This means it uses part of the varicella-zoster virus to help the immune system protect against the virus.
However, ongoing research is investigating the potential use of mRNA vaccines against shingles and many other conditions.