Shingles Vaccination – You May Need It
New Shingles Vaccine More Effective for Prevention
When I was a kid, chicken pox “parties” were all the rage. Parents would take their children over to another infected child’s house to spread the virus around from child to child. The thought behind early exposure to chicken pox was to decrease the likelihood of a more severe reaction if contracted as an adult. Little did these parents know, however, the virus doesn’t vanish completely when the red spots disappear. Following the initial infection, the chicken pox-causing virus, varicella zoster virus, hibernates in our bodies. This typically happens for decades and may return later in life as a more serious rash called shingles.
Shingles may develop at any time in anyone who has had direct exposure to chicken pox before. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), after age 50 there is a dramatic increase the virus reactivating into shingles. Even those who were vaccinated with the preventative live-virus chicken pox vaccine beginning in the late 1990s may be at risk of developing shingles later in life.
Characteristically shingles manifests as a large rash with red, pus-filled sores. These are usually associated with a burning, itching, and/or tingling sensation. Sometimes these sensations may be felt for several days to a week before the rash appears. Most commonly the rash appears on a person’s side near the hip. It can sometimes wrapping up the side and around to the back. In more severe cases, the rash can form on the face and head near the eyes, potentially leading to eyesight complications.
Shingles is extremely contagious. It is recommended not to allow others to come in contact with the sores until they have begun to heal. Since this is a virus that affects your nerves, sometimes a condition called post herpetic neuralgia may develop. This can cause the painful sensations of shingles to persist for an extended period of time even after the rash has subsided. This nerve pain can be treated with prescription anti-viral medications if it becomes too severe. In most cases it takes several weeks for shingles to fully resolve.
Vaccines for Shingles Prevention
Currently there are two preventative vaccines available in the U.S. to decrease the likelihood of developing shingles. Zostavax, a live-virus vaccine, was the first vaccine on the market and is approved for adults 60 years and older. In the fall of 2017, GlaxoSmithKline released the most recent and now most preferred vaccine called Shingrix. Shingrix is a two-dose vaccine that is approved for adults 50 years and older. The manufacturer has reported efficacy of close to 90% at preventing the development of shingles which is why it has become the preferred choice for prevention. Unlike Zostavax, Shingrix is not a live-virus vaccine, which eliminates the possibility of becoming ill from the vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that even if a person has been vaccinated previously with Zostavax they should still receive Shingrix for added protection against shingles.
Who Should Be Vaccinated?
Anyone who had the chicken pox as a child is at risk of developing shingles. There is also a possibility that those vaccinated may have a small chance of developing shingles as well. Call or stop in and chat with your nearby friendly CHI Health Pharmacy staff to find out if you are eligible for your vaccination today!
Katie Atkins, PharmD, RPh, is a pharmacist at CHI Health Retail Pharmacy. She has been with the company for seven years and counting, beginning as a technician the summer before beginning pharmacy school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Katie is very passionate about providing exceptional care to every patient she encounters. In her free time, Katie enjoys cooking, spending time with friends and family, and traveling to new places with her husband.