The Herpes Zoster Vaccine: Effective Yet Underutilized

Doctors say that despite the high effectiveness of the shingles vaccine, too many people are not getting it

The Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), the cause of chicken pox, is so common in children under the age of twelve that  90% of adults are immune to the condition because they’ve had it before. After infection from the VZV virus, it remains dormant in the nerve cells for life. Later in life it may re-activate as shingles, particularly in those that are immunocompromised.

The risk of contracting shingles increases with age, and the characteristic blisters that appear on the skin contain the VZV virus and can cause chicken-pox in young children that are exposed to it. This is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that those over the age of 60 get the vaccine, however, a recent study of more than 766,000 Medicare beneficiaries showed that less than 4 percent of them got it.

The vaccine has been shown to to reduce the rate of shingles by 48%.
In addition to reducing the likelihood of getting shingles, the vaccine is important because it helps protect against a singles complication known as post herpetic neuralgia – this condition leaves the sufferer with severe pain long after the shingles rash has disappeared due to permanent nerve damage.

Dr.John Sheffield of the Good Samaritan Family Practice Center in Lebanon has said that “the shingles vaccine reduces the chance of getting post herpetic neuralgia by two thirds,” which is important because it can have a big impact on the quality of life of senior citizens. People can have multiple episodes of the shingles, so it is recommended to have the vaccine even if you’ve had one episode already.

Read more about it here: CDC Shingles Vaccination 

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