Vaccines to Prevent Shingles: Zostavax Shingles Vaccine

Shingles, also called Herpes Zoster, or just Zoster is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

December 13, 2017

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time. Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.
Shingles, also called Herpes Zoster, or just Zoster is a painful skin rash, often with blisters.
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body in a dormant state. The virus become reactivate years later for unknown reasons, causing shingles.
A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts from 2 to 4 weeks. Most common symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. A shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation or even death in rare case.
The most common complication of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN. People with PHN have severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up. The pain from PHN may be severe and debilitating, but it usually resolves in a few weeks or months in most patients. However, PHN can persists for many years in some persons.
Someone who has had chickenpox  or rarely has gotten chickenpox vaccine can get shingles. You can not catch shingles from another person with shingles. However, very rarely a person who has never had chickenpox or chickenpox vaccine could get chickenpox from someone with shingles.
Shingles is more common in people 50 years of age and older compared to younger people. It is also more common in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.

Shingles Vaccine:

A single dose of shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older. The vaccine reduces the risk of shingles by 50 percent. It can also reduce pain in people who still get shingles after being vaccinated.

Things and conditions to be considered before getting the vaccine:

A person should not get shingles vaccine who:
has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of shingles vaccine. Speak to your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
has a weakened immune system because of:
  • AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
  • treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as prolonged use of high-dose steroids,
  • cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy,
  • cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
is pregnant, or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least 4 weeks after getting shingles vaccine.
Someone with a minor acute illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But anyone with a moderate or severe acute illness should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine.

Risks from shingles vaccine:

There are chances of side effects that are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious reactions are also possible but are rare. Some of the mild Problems following shingles vaccine include:
  • Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching at the site of the injection
  • Headache

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • Sometimes people faint after vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting. If you feel dizzy, have vision changes or ringing in the ears, speak to your doctor.
  • In some cases severe pain in the shoulder and difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given could happen.
  • A severe allergic reaction would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
  • There is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death. The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. You can get all the information from Vaccine Safety site.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.

Learn more about Vaccine:

Your doctor can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
You can call your local or state health department or can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by:
        Calling 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
        Visiting  CDC vaccines website