The Shingles Vaccine
Who should receive the Shingles vaccine?
Shingles (Aka: herpes zoster) is caused by a retrograde transport of the chickenpox virus from the ganglia (nerve root) to the skin. Ten to 30% of people develop Shingles in their lifetime and most of the time it occurs in the elderly. Normal aging causes immunity against zoster to go down.
Shingles causes a discrete rash that can be painful and lasts several weeks. Twenty percent of people develop postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition that can last long after the Shingles outbreak.
In 2006 a Shingles vaccine called Zostavax was approved by the FDA. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends giving a single dose of the live vaccine to healthy people age 60 or older. The vaccine prevents Shingles and postherpetic neuralgia.
Some points to know about Zostavax:
- It is not the chickenpox vaccine (Varivax). Zostavax is 14X more potent than Varivax.
- Zostavax can be administered with other vaccines (Tetanus, influenza, pneumococcus) but it should be given at different sites.
- Even people who do not recall having chickenpox should receive the vaccine.
- People who have had Shingles should have the vaccine because you can get Shingles again.
- The adverse effects include local swelling and pain, headache. There have been no serious adverse effects compared to placebo.
- People with immune deficiency, cancer, leukemia, lymphoma,(unless in remission) or organ transplant should not receive the vaccine.
Information Source: Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2009