By: Tyler J. Hyslep, PA-C
Shingles can have a significant impact on quality of life. Luckily, there is a vaccine that can prevent it. First, let’s get to know what shingles is. Shingles is a reactivation of the Chicken Pox Virus. Per CDC, 99% of Americans born before 1980 have had chickenpox even if they cannot recall having it. Once we get chicken pox, it remains dormant in our bodies and can reactivate as shingles. Shingles is more likely to occur in people who have a weakened immune system, have had a recent illness, or have significant stress. Shingles can also happen without any known triggers. Symptoms include a painful, blistery rash that will affect only one side of the body. If the rash crosses the midline of your body, chances are it is not shingles.
There are 2 primary reasons why we vaccinate against shingles. First, shingles can cause an intense burning pain. This burning pain can last for several months. Often regular over-the-counter pain medications are not sufficient to treat the degree of pain. The second reason we vaccinate is because it can infect the nerve of the eye. This can lead to permanent vision loss and significant eye pain.
The vaccine that prevents Shingles is called Shingrix. Shingrix is a two shot series for individuals above the age of 50. You get the first vaccine followed by a second vaccine 2 to 6 months thereafter. There is no current need for a booster. Shingrix is 97% effective in preventing shingles in individuals who get the vaccine between ages of 50 and 69. It is 89% effective in individuals who get the vaccine at age 70 or older. Side effects can occur, most commonly arm soreness. Flulike illness can also develop and generally will only last for 48 hours. Because of this, we often recommend getting the vaccine when your schedule is free for the subsequent 2 days. The vaccine is available at several local pharmacies. Additional information can be obtained at the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html