Since we last wrote about shingles (caused by herpes varicella zoster virus) in 2015, there is a new vaccine.
The new vaccine is called Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) and is given as two shots separated by 2 – 6 months. The new vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles.
Herpes varicella zoster is the virus that causes chickenpox and later the painful shingles. Those of us who had chickenpox as a child are at increased risk for shingles as we age. The rash is bad enough, but it can also result in a painful condition called “post-herpetic neuralgia” that can last for years. Both can be prevented.
Chickenpox used to be a regular childhood infection that we endured. In 1995, children in the United States began to receive a vaccination to prevent chickenpox so it is rarely seen in children any more. Those of us who had the real thing harbor the virus in our central nervous system forever, and, as our immune defenses decline, it may blossom forth as the ugly and painful cluster of blisters called shingles. The rash may occur anywhere on the body, and it usually looks like a single stripe of blisters on either the right or left side without crossing the midline.
If you have had shingles, you know that you don’t want it again.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that all healthy adults older than 50 have the Shingrix vaccine even if you had the other vaccine in the past and even if you have had a case of shingles in the past. Shingrix is available from your doctor and from some pharmacies.