Sunday, November 19, 2006
A new vaccine has been approved by the FDA for the prevention of shingles in persons who are 60 years or older.
Shingles is a painful disease caused by the latent manifestation of the herpes zoster virus (HZV). This is the same virus which causes chicken pox. Once the virus invades the body, it lives in a sensory nerve ending quietly. However, under certain circumstances the virus can reactivate and multiply causing a severe blistering painful rash. The pain known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) can last months to even years.
What does the vaccine do?
Several studies have shown that the vaccine boosts the weakened immunity against the virus. The Shingles Prevention Study followed more than 38,000 adults 60 years and older for 3 years. It concluded that the vaccine reduced the course and the level of pain by 61%.
Who should get the vaccine?
The vaccine is recommended for immunocompetent persons who are 60 years or older and who have had a history of chicken pox. If a history of chicken pox is unknown then a blood test can be done to confirm previous exposure to HZV. If the person has not had chicken pox then vaccination with Varivax is recommended. Varivax is a vaccine against HZV to prevent chicken pox (varicella). It has been used in the U.S. since 1995.
Who should not get the vaccine?
The vaccine is contraindicated in persons who are under 60 years old, who have not had chicken pox, or who are immunocompromised as with a malignancy or severe infection or undergoing treatment with chemotherapy or systemic corticosteroids. It is also not recommended for anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to gelatin or neomycin.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
The vaccine is considered safe over all. It may cause a rash, redness, itching, and soreness at the injection site.
How much does the vaccine cost?
The vaccine is given as a single shot subcutaneously, and it costs about $250.
As this is a new vaccine, it is not known how long the duration of the protection will last.
References: please see specific links.
Photos, courtesy of: Herpes Zoster and ecanadanow.