The Immunogenicity and Safety of Zostavax® and Shingrix® in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Using Abatacept (BMS-188667)

  • End date
    Jun 17, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Kevin Winthrop
Updated on 7 October 2022
tumor necrosis factor
tumor necrosis factor alpha
tumour necrosis
attenuated vaccine
zoster vaccine
anti-tnf-alpha therapy
abatacept therapy


This investigator-initiated study will serve as a sub-study for the American College of Rheumatology-sponsored VERVE protocol currently funded by the NIH. This double-blinded multicenter randomized pragmatic trial is designed to determine whether Zostavax or Shingrix are safe and effective in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) currently using anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapies. Inclusion/exclusion criteria for this sub-study mirror that of the parent VERVE trial with the exception of abatacept therapy being allowed. Preliminary data from the VERVE parent protocol enrolling patients using anti-TNF therapy is encouraging in that few patients experienced adverse events (56 adverse events in 50 participants, out of 140 participants in total) and that 96.2% of these adverse events were considered either mild or moderate. Importantly, there have been no instances of vaccine dissemination or zoster events to date.


Recently, a live-attenuated vaccine (Zostavax®, Merck) to prevent herpes zoster (HZ) has been developed and approved for use among individuals age 50 years or older, regardless of previous HZ or varicella history. In a pivotal study of 38,456 older adults led by Dr. Michael Oxman (a co-investigator in the parent VERVE trial and this immunogenicity pilot sub-study), the vaccine reduced the incidence of HZ and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) by > 50%.

Guidelines from the American Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP), based largely on expert opinion (given the absence of data), recommend that patients who use methotrexate or low to moderate doses of corticosteroids (up to 20mg/day prednisone) can receive this vaccination safely. However, theoretical concerns regarding the safety of live vaccine use in patients using biologic therapies have resulted in an ACIP recommendation that the vaccine is contraindicated in patients receiving such medications. Similarly, given a lack of data, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) endorsed this contraindication in the updated ACR 2012 recommendations for biologic and non-biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) use in RA patients (led by members of the project team for this present application).

Currently it is unknown if RA patients using biologics can safely receive these vaccines. Despite the demonstrated efficacy and safety of the zoster vaccine observed in non-RA patients, there are no prospective data critically examining the efficacy or safety of HZ vaccination in RA patients. The zoster vaccine was not given to immunosuppressed patients in the large Shingles Prevention Study (SPS); RA patients and others receiving biologics and immunosuppressive agents including glucocorticoids and DMARDs were excluded. However, this trial did show safety of the vaccine even for very elderly individuals including those older than 70 years of age and with little evidence of remaining VZV-specific cell mediated immunity (CMI). Moreover, live varicella vaccine has been safely given to children with HIV infection. Recently, the investigators used the administrative databases of a national U.S. Healthcare organization (Aetna) to conduct an observational study to examining Zostavax use in patients with RA and other rheumatic diseases (e.g. spondyloarthropathies). Among a total of 19,326 RA patients older than age 50, only 206 (1%) received zoster vaccine, suggesting that clinicians may be uncomfortable using the vaccine in RA patients. Additionally, approximately 60 vaccinated patients were using anti-TNF therapies within one month of vaccination, and no cases of HZ were reported during this time frame. Some studies suggest an elevated risk of HZ in RA patients using anti-TNF therapies, although HZ cases reported within these cohorts of anti-TNF users do not show increased dissemination or complications, suggesting that anti-TNF therapy might not necessarily increase the likelihood of VZV dissemination in such patients. Theoretically, however, with downregulation of interferon-gamma pathways associated with TNF blockade, an increase risk of HZ might be expected in such patients. Lastly, limited head-to-head data collected to date suggests abatacept might carry less risk of HZ and other opportunistic infections than does anti-TNF therapy. Given the widespread use of anti-TNF and other biologic therapies like abatacept, many RA patients and rheumatologists are unwilling to stop biologic therapy in order to receive Zostavax. This represents a missed opportunity with regard to HZ prevention. Clearly, given the high risk of HZ in the RA population, it would be highly beneficial to prospectively evaluate the safety and efficacy of this vaccine in patients using biologic therapy.

An additional non-live vaccine, the adjuvanted recombinant glycoprotein E (gE) herpes zoster (HZ) vaccine (recombinant zoster vaccine; RZV; Shingrix®), has recently been approved for healthy immunocompetent adults >50 years old by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). In pivotal trials among healthy individuals, the vaccine was more than 90% effective in all age groups studied (>50 years) with a low incidence of serious adverse events. However, the vaccine displayed a high degree of reactogenicity with 15.6% of individuals suffering grade 3 or higher systemic reactions. While these reactions were self-limited and typically resolved within several days, patients with active immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (e.g. RA) were not included in these trials. There is concern that given the potency of the AS01B adjuvant in RZV and its subsequent reactogenicity, that vaccination with RZV could result in flares of underlying inflammatory diseases. Further, it is unclear how biologic therapy affects the immunogenicity or reactogenicity of this vaccine, and it is possible the efficacy of this vaccine will not be as high in immunosuppressed populations. Given RZV is a non-live vaccine, it theoretically has advantage over the currently used live shingles vaccine in which it is contraindicated to give to patients using biologic therapy. However, before such use is recommended, the vaccine should be evaluated in such populations.

Condition Herpes Zoster, Inflammatory Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment Placebo Injection, Varicella Zoster Vaccine, Varicella Zoster Vaccine
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03604406
SponsorKevin Winthrop
Last Modified on7 October 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

be >= 50 years of age or older (for the Zostavax® sub-study only)
be >= 18 years of age or older (for the Shingrix® sub-study only)
be currently treated with abatacept therapy at the time of enrollment
Eligible women must be post-menopausal (> 1 year since last menstrual period) or have a surgical history of bilateral oophorectomy or hysterectomy (for the Zostavax® sub-study only)
Female participants of childbearing potential may be enrolled in the study if the participant (for the Shingrix® sub-study only)
Has practiced adequate contraception for 30 days prior to vaccination; and
Has a negative urine pregnancy test on the day of the first vaccination; and
Has agreed to continue adequate contraception during the primary treatment period and for 2 months after completion of the vaccination series (Week 16)
Patients must have a history of prior chicken pox (for the Zostavax® sub-study only; for patients who do not recall prior chicken pox, a positive varicella IgG serology can be used to document prior exposure)

Exclusion Criteria

prior Zostavax® receipt (for the Zostavax® sub-study only; the Shingrix® sub-study will allow prior Zostavax® receipt if 6 months or greater prior to enrollment)
active contraindications to vaccination including allergy or sensitivity to gelatin or any other vaccine component
acute illness or infection
current systemic corticosteroid use (including any oral or parenteral use in the previous 28 days) [NOTE: this exclusion applies only for the Zostavax® portion of the study]
methotrexate use > 25 mg/week
dose of DMARDs not stable for > 30 days
concomitant TNF antagonist use
receiving radiation or chemotherapy for cancer treatment
current leukemia
lymphoma, or other cancer affecting bone marrow or lymphatic system
cellular immunodeficiency
current use (within the last 30 days) of anti-viral medications against the herpesvirus family
Received any live virus vaccine within 28 days prior to study entry (Zostavax® sub-study only)
Administration or planned administration of any live vaccine <28 days before the first study vaccination or through 28 days after the second study vaccination (Shingrix ® sub-study only)
received any inactivated vaccine within 7 days prior to study entry (Zostavax® sub-study only)
Received any inactivated vaccine +/- 14 days of each study injection (Shingrix ® sub-study only)
known household contacts who may be susceptible to a live virus vaccine (e.g. pregnant women) [NOTE: this exclusion for the Zostavax® sub-study only]
Clear my responses

How to participate?

Step 1 Connect with a study center
What happens next?
  • You can expect the study team to contact you via email or phone in the next few days.
  • Sign up as volunteer  to help accelerate the development of new treatments and to get notified about similar trials.

You are contacting

Investigator Avatar

Primary Contact


Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

Learn more

If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

Learn more

Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

Learn more

Similar trials to consider


Browse trials for

Not finding what you're looking for?

Every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step forward to participate in research. Sign up as a volunteer and receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.

Sign up as volunteer

user name

Added by • 



Reply by • Private

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur, adipisicing elit. Ipsa vel nobis alias. Quae eveniet velit voluptate quo doloribus maxime et dicta in sequi, corporis quod. Ea, dolor eius? Dolore, vel!

  The passcode will expire in None.

No annotations made yet

Add a private note
  • abc Select a piece of text from the left.
  • Add notes visible only to you.
  • Send it to people through a passcode protected link.
Add a private note