Shingles is an awful infection. It presents as a very painful, blistering rash on the skin that usually presents on the torso, neck or face, though it can present anywhere. Sometimes the pain can last for years after the rash has resolved. I always feel so sorry for my patients when they get this.
Shingles is caused by the chicken pox virus that we had when we were young. We cleared that infection, but the virus can continue to live in our nervous system for many years. Some people may not remember having chicken pox, but studies show that close to 99% of adults over 50 have been exposed or infected. This means that these same people are at risk of having a shingles infection!We have had a shingles vaccination around since 2006 called Zostavax. I was happy to make this available to my patients because decreasing their risk of this awful illness with a simple vaccine makes a lot of sense to me. That vaccine was only about 50-70% effective, but it was the best we had.
Drumroll….. we now have a new vaccine that is greater than 90% effective!! Hooray for scientists and hooray for us!!! It is called Shingrix and I am so excited to be able to share this with my patients. It is indicated for healthy adults age 50 and older. Even if you already had the Zostavax immunization or if you have already had shingles, Shingrix is still recommended. It is given as a series of 2 shots that are separated by 2-6 months. So, if you are over 50, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated!