Who should get the Shingles Vaccine

Q: Who should get the Shingles Vaccine?

A: Whether they have had shingles or not, adults age 60 and older should get the shingles vaccine (Zostavax), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Vaccine is also approved for use in patients ages 50-59 years, but the CDC is not recommending the shingles vaccine until you reach age 60. The CDC also recommends getting the vaccine regardless if you recall having chickenpox or not as a child.

Q: What is Shingles?

A: Shingles is the reactivation of the chickenpox (varicella-zoster) virus that most people were exposed to during childhood. After we recover from chickpox as children, the virus lays dormant in the body. For reasons unknown, as we age sometimes the virus gets reactivated, resulting in shingles.

Q: Can I still get Shingles if I have had the Zostavax Vaccine?

A: In a clinical trial involving thousands of adults 60 years old or older, Zostavax reduced the risk of shingles by about half (51%) and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67%. While the vaccine was most effective in people 60-69 years old it also provided some protection for older groups.

Research suggests that the shingles vaccine is effective for at least six years, but may last longer. Ongoing studies are being conducted to determine how long the vaccine protects against shingles.

Q: What is the cost of the Zostavax Vaccine?

A: This varies from each individuals plan, but generally speaking we see the average co-pay to be in the $20-30 range, with co-pays as low as $0 to as high as $95. Stop in today or give us a quick phone call and we will be happy to find out what your co-pay would be.

Q: Who should not get the Zostavax Vaccine?

A: A person who has ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.

A person who has a weakened immune system because of

  • HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
  • treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids,
  • cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy,
  • cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.

Women who are or might be pregnant

Q: Is Shingles contagious?

A: Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus, can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox. In such cases, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but they would not develop shingles. The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters, not through sneezing, coughing or casual contact.

A person with shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. A person is not infectious before blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.

Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.

If you have shingles

  • Keep the rash covered.
  • Do not touch or scratch the rash.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of varicella zoster virus.
  • Until your rash has developed crusts, avoid contact with
    • pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine;
    • premature or low birth weight infants; and
    • immunocompromised persons (such as persons receiving immunosuppressive medications or undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with HIV infection).

Q: What are the side effects of the Zostavax Vaccine?

A: No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine.

The vaccine has been tested in about 20,000 people aged 60 years old and older. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. CDC, working with the FDA, will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccine after it is in general use.

It is safe to be around infants and young children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems after you get the shingles vaccine. There is no documentation of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the shingles vaccine (which contains varicella zoster virus).

Some people who get the shingles vaccine will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the place where they were vaccinated. As a precaution, this rash should be covered until it disappears.

The shingles vaccine does not contain thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury).

Q: How do I get the Zostavax Vaccine?

A: Stop in to King’s Pharmacy anytime! No appointment necessary. Don’t wait until it is too late, you can prevent much pain and suffering with just a quick trip to the pharmacy!

Ref. CDC and the Mayo Clinic