Shingles will develop in approximately 1 in 3 people during their lifetimes. The trunk and face are the most frequently affected areas, with a belt-like rash forming on one side of the body. The rash can be very painful and usually takes 2-4 weeks to heal. The lesions are contagious from the time the rash erupts until a crust forms over them. Many patients will experience complications from shingles, such as the debilitating condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia. Post-herpetic neuralgia occurs in about 20% of patients with shingles as pain lasting greater than 30 days after the resolution of the rash. It can be difficult to treat and may interfere with work, sleep, mood, and activities of daily living.
In May 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Zostavax® as the first vaccine available to prevent shingles. Although the vaccine is indicated for prevention of herpes zoster in patients 50 years of age and older, current guidelines recommend routine vaccination for all persons aged 60 years or older. This is especially true for patients with a chronic medical condition such as kidney disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Zostavax® is a live attenuated vaccine administered by a healthcare provider as a one-time subcutaneous injection in the deltoid region of the upper arm. The vaccine cannot be given to someone who currently has shingles, for treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia, or for patients who may be pregnant. The most common side effect is an injection-site reaction, such as pain, redness, or swelling.
Zostavax® significantly reduces the risk of developing shingles by nearly 70%. The vaccine is available at Harry Race Pharmacy for the price of $175.75 (subject to change). Since the vaccine must be stored at a specific frozen temperature, it is important to pick up the vial and bring it to your appointment within 30 minutes. For more information, you can visit the Zostavax® website at www.zostavax.com or consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/shingles.