Sam Bauman: New vaccine offers protection from shingles |

Sam Bauman: New vaccine offers protection from shingles

Sam Bauman

For those of us not stricken by the shingles disease, there’s a new vaccine for it which is better than the old Zostavax shot. It’s called Shingrix.

Shingles is a blistering illness that strikes one side of the body. It strikes one out of three adults during the lifetime. While Shingrix is a new two-shot vaccine that lasts, Zostavax is only good for a limited time. Shingrix is a better answer to the disease. The old vaccine effectiveness is limited and fades as we age. As always, talk to your doctor about what is best for you. Here’s some information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This (Shingrix) looks like a vaccine that will provide substantive long, protective, persistent protection,” says William Schaffner, M.D., a professor at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. ”The body responds to Shingrix much more strongly compared the Zostavax.”

The benefits of the new vaccine occur when the herpes of the chicken pox virus, thought to be dormant in those who had chicken pox, emerges. This awakens later in life. Almost all adults over the age of 40 carry the chicken pox virus.

The two to four weeks of shingles can be challenging to 1 in 5 people who develop herpetic neuralgia, or PHN, nerve pain that can linger for months or even years. Zostavax gives 70 percent protection against shingles for ages 50 to 59, but only 18 percent for those 80 and older, publications report. Its effectiveness lasts for just five years and cuts the risk of PHN by 67 percent.

According to clinical trials, Shingrix boasts the immune system response more strongly and confers 97 percent protection for those their 50s, and 60s and about 90 percent protection for those in their 70s and 80s. It retained similar effectiveness throughout a four-year study and cut PHN risk at 86 percent.

The CDC said people should get Shingrix at age 50, some 10 years earlier than Zostavax recommends. Patients should opt out of Zostavax and get Shingrix. The two shots are given months apart.

Old adults who are immunocompromised were excluded from the recommendation. This group cannot get Zostavax because it contains a live but weakened herpes virus but may be candidates for Shingrix, which has a nonliving viral particle. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices may come out with advice paths soon.

Those with a history of severe allergic reactions to any parts of Shingrix may not get it. Otherwise, if you are 50 or older, talk to you doctor about Shingix even if you’ve never had shingles. But note it might take some time for insurance, especially Medicare to catch up to the CDC recommendation. So the total cost for the two shots may not be covered anyway.

Like all vaccines, there seems to be pain at the site of injection for up to three days afterward and redness at the injection site and swelling, muscle pain, fatigue and, headaches, shivering and stomach upset.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.