Shingles or Herpes Zoster is a condition that causes pain and a blistering rash over specific parts of the body. It occurs in people who have had “chicken pox” in the past. When a person recovers from “chicken pox” the virus can remain dormant in the body.
If the virus reactivates it can cause Shingles. Postherpetic neuralgia is a result of Shingles and can become a chronic pain problem impacting quality of life. Shingles can be treated with paid medication and antiviral medication, but is preventable by vaccination.
There are two types of vaccinations for Shingles. Zoster Live vaccine and Recombinant Zoster vaccine. The Live vaccine has been available since 2008 but is only about 50% effective against Shingles. It has been indicated for people older than 60 years old, as they are more likely to experience Herpetic Neuralgia. In the fall of 2017, Recombinant Zoster vaccine became available. It is recommended for patients over the age of 50 and is greater than 90% effective in preventing Shingles and Neuralgia, which is significant improvement over the previous version available. It is not a live vaccine, so it should also be safer than the older vaccine. The Recombinant vaccine requires a series of two injections, given 2–6 weeks apart.
All adults over 50 years old should be vaccinated against Shingles. If you have never had “chicken pox”, you should receive a Varicella vaccine instead of a Shingles vaccine. Your health care provider can test you to determine the correct action if there is a question as to which vaccine is appropriate. Currently it is recommended that anyone over 50 years old who has received the Live Shingle vaccine be revaccinated with the new Recombinant Shingle vaccine (Shingrix).
Please be sure to discuss Shingles vaccine options with your healthcare provider if you qualify.
Dr. David Stahura, DO