The new shingles vaccine prevents more than 90 percent of all cases of a common disease among the elderly that causes intense pain. Here’s what you should know.
Don’t skip the new vaccine, Shingrix, if you’re over 50. You really don’t want to get shingles.
There are more than a million cases of herpes zoster in the United States each year, and those numbers seem to be rising. Your personal risk spikes up after you hit 50. By the age of 85, you have a 50 percent risk of coming down with the disease — unless you get vaccinated.
Until recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that everyone over the age of 60 get the vaccine Zostavax, even if you’d already had shingles. Zostavax, introduced in 2006, brings down your risk by about half and cuts the risk of lingering pain even more. But Zostavax didn’t work as well on older people.
Now a new vaccine, Shingrix, has proven to protect more than 90 percent of recipients. It’s also more effective in the elderly. The CDC recommends it for anyone over the age of 50, including people who were already vaccinated with Zostavax.
By early 2018, Shingrix should be easily available and covered by insurance.
How do you get shingles?
Shingles comes from the same virus that causes chickenpox in children. Like other kinds of herpes viruses, even after your spots go away, the varicella zoster virus, also called herpes zoster, never goes away. It hides inside you invisibly. It can erupt decades later, causing the painful disease shingles, when your immune system is weakened by age, or other illnesses or chemotherapy.
You are vulnerable to shingles even if you were never aware of having chickenpox, which can be mild and pass unnoticed.
You can’t catch shingles from another person with shingles. But if you’ve never had chickenpox, you might get chickenpox from someone with shingles. This is rare.
April 07, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN