Shingles and Zostavax Vaccine

In an effort to keep all of our patients updated on the latest developments in healthcare, we at LernerCohen have available the new Herpes Zoster vaccine, Zostavax, for  our patients.  The following is a brief summary of the product details to help our patients decide if the vaccine is appropriate for them.  As always please feel free to discuss any issues with your Physician.

On May 26,2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the very first vaccine for the prevention of Herpes Zoster (Shingles) in people 60 years of age and older.

 Herpes Zoster is a ubiquitous viral infection that usually affects young children in a disseminated fashion causing a febrile illness with a diffuse blistering eruption known as “chickenpox”.  This is usually a mild, self limited illness with no long term sequelae.  Once the virus affects its host, it then lays dormant for many years, often forever.  Unfortunately, for reasons that are not known, reactivation of this virus can occur, often in older individuals.  Upon reactivation, the virus usually manifests as a blistering very painful eruption in a very localized area.  The incidence and severity of Shingles, as well the frequency and severity of its complications, increase with age.  Long term nerve pain, known as post herpetic neuralgia, is perhaps the most dreaded complication of Shingles.  

 Zostavax vaccine has been studied in 38,000 patients for an average of 3 years.  It decreased the incidence of Shingles by 51%, and in those individuals who did develop Shingles, it decreased the development of post herpetic neuralgia by 39%.  Injection site reaction consisting mostly of pain and localized swelling were the primary side effects of the vaccination.  There have thus far been no significant vaccine related serious side effects.

 Zostavax is a live attenuated vaccine, meaning that the vaccine has been weakened so as not to cause infection yet to still elicit an immune response.  Because it is a live vaccine it should NOT be given to people who are immunocompromised.  Leukemia, lymphoma, current chemotherapy, HIV and high dose steroid therapy treatment are all contraindications to treatment. People who have had shingles and therefore have high antibody levels are also not candidates for the vaccine.

 Zostavax should be considered for all appropriate people over age 60.  We will be offering this in our office setting as well as at our upcoming health fair in the Fall.  We hope this answers any questions you may have.  Please call your Physician for further discussion in this regard.

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