Recent posts

Shingles: To Vaccinate or Not – That is NOT the Question

Shingles: To Vaccinate or Not – That is NOT the Question

Shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox (virtually everyone), you are at risk of getting shingles.

  • One of every three people 60 years old or older will get shingles.
  • Half of these people will develop severe pain (post herpetic neuralgia) lasting months or even years.
  • One in 5 cases involve the eye, which can lead to serious complications including chronic pain, glaucoma and severe vision loss.

For reasons not entirely clear, the incidence of shingles has been increasing dramatically in the last 15 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of individuals who live to age 85 will develop shingles.

The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term problems that can ensue is to get vaccinated. Recently the CDC lowered the recommended age for vaccination from age 60 to 50 and older.

The really great news is the CDC recently approved a new vaccine, Shingrix. It is much more effective than the older vaccine (greater than 90% decrease in shingles versus about 60% with the previous vaccine).

Current recommendations from the federal agency responsible for immunizations recommends:

  • Shingrix be used instead of the older vaccine, Zostavax.
  • All immunocompetent individuals 50 or older receive the vaccine. Individuals with weakened immune systems including cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, patients with HIV/AIDS and individuals with certain allergies should check with their physicians.
  • People who have had shingles in the past should still receive the vaccine.
  • Individuals who have had the previous vaccine should have the newer one because Zostavax loses its effectiveness over time.

A prominent ophthalmologist who has written about the new vaccine puts it bluntly, ‘… getting shingles in your eye is one of the worst things that can happen to an eye. It can literally go on for the rest of your life.’

March 2, 2018