Herpes Zoster Vaccine Reduces Hospitalizations
Millions of seniors are at risk of contracting herpes zoster, commonly known as Shingles, which occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox is reactivated.
Moreover, the risk of shingles increases with age.
The incidence of herpes zoster rises dramatically for people over 50 years of age, according to the Centers of Disease and Control (CDC).
A new study reported a vaccine was 74 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations for shingles.
But over time, immunization from this vaccine dropped to 55 percent, after four years.
Also, this research found the immunization was 57 percent effective for preventing pain from shingles in the three years after vaccination. The rate dropped to 45 percent after four years.
This increased incidence of pain is associated with a decrease in cellular immunity to herpes zoster virus.
In 2006, a live attenuated vaccine, Zostavax, was licensed and approved by the FDA for use in the United States to prevent herpes zoster in individuals over 65 years old. It is given in one dose as a shot, and can be given in a doctor’s office or pharmacy.
But, the CDC reported in 2014, just 28 percent of adults in this age group said they had received the vaccine.
There are an estimated 1 million cases of shingles each year in this country. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles.
People who develop shingles typically have only one episode in their lifetime. However, a person can have a second or even a third episode.
The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain from post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is to get vaccinated.
Several antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, are available to treat shingles. These medicines will help shorten the length and severity of the illness.
But to be effective, these medicines must be started as soon as possible after the shingles rash appears.
The current CDC recommended price list can be found here.