The Link Between Shingles, Zostavax Vaccination and Dementia Risk

Pavankumar Kamat


October 15, 2021


  • Participants who were diagnosed with shingles at ≥3 years prior to dementia diagnosis had a slight but non-significant increase in the risk of dementia.

  • The risk of dementia was lower in participants who were vaccinated with Zostavax.

Why this matters

  • The potential role of varicella-zoster virus and other herpes viruses has been rarely considered in dementia.

Study design

  • A nested case-control study included 2378 incident dementia cases and 225,845 control participants from the UK Biobank.

  • Disease outcomes and exposures were determined from the Hospital Episode Statistics and primary care linkage health records.

  • The association of shingles and Zostavax vaccination with dementia risk was evaluated.

  • Funding: None.

Key results

  • After adjustment for confounders, there was a small but non-significant increase in the risk of dementia in participants diagnosed with shingles at ≥3 years prior to dementia diagnosis (adjusted OR [aOR], 1.088; 95% CI, 0.978-1.211).

  • Participants vaccinated with Zostavax had a lower risk of dementia (aOR, 0.808; 95% CI, 0.657-0.993).


  • The diagnoses of dementia were based on records rather than direct patient contact.


Lophatananon A, Mekli K, Cant R, Burns A, Dobson C, Itzhaki R, Muir K. Shingles, Zostavax vaccination and risk of developing dementia: a nested case-control study-results from the UK Biobank cohort. BMJ Open. 2021;11(10):e045871. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-045871. PMID: 34625411  View full text

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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