How To Protect Yourself From Shingles

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As if having itchy chickenpox as a kid wasn’t bad enough, you are now at risk as an adult for developing a painful rash called shingles. Everyone knows that having the shingles is no fun, and as you get older, your risk for developing shingles increases. Approximately 1 out of 3 adults will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime (CDC, 2017). So why not take the necessary precautions to prevent yourself from getting that horrible rash?

Until recently, Zostavax was the only vaccine available for the prevention of shingles or herpes zoster. According to the CDC, all adults over 60 years of age should receive a one-time dose of Zostavax, unless contraindicated. Given that Zostavax is a live vaccine, many contraindications exist including use in immunocompromised patients, patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy, and pregnant mothers.

In October 2017, the FDA approved a new and improved vaccine for the prevention of herpes zoster called Shingrix. Shingrix is a recombinant vaccine administered intramuscularly as a two-dose series (0 and 2 to 6 months). A recombinant vaccine works by targeting a key component of the virus and produces a very strong immune response against the virus. Studies have shown that Shingrix reduced the incidence of shingles by greater than 90% in all age groups.

Due to these remarkable results, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations for Shingrix include the following:

  1. Adults over 50 years of age should be vaccinated.
  2. Adults previously vaccinated with Zostavax should be revaccinated with Shingrix.
  3. Shingrix is preferred over Zostavax for the prevention of herpes zoster.

Another benefit of Shingrix is that less contraindications exist since it is not a live vaccine. Patients who are immunocompromised, receiving immunosuppressive therapy or patients who are even pregnant can now be vaccinated for shingles prevention! It is also worth noting that side effects to the new vaccine included myalgia, fatigue, headache, shivering, fever and gastrointestinal symptoms in addition to the normal local injection site adverse reactions. The Shingrix vaccine is not indicated for prevention of primary varicella infection (chickenpox).

Another advantage of the Shingrix vaccine is that unlike the Zostavax vaccine, it can be stored in the refrigerator before reconstitution.

As you can see, some differences do exist between the two vaccines. Please speak with your healthcare provider about the best option for protection from shingles is for you.

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