Written by Carolyn Maschke
A vaccine recommended for people 60 and older to prevent shingles is now available at Southwest District’s 14 county health departments.
“The older a person is, the more severe the effects of shingles typically are,” Southwest Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant said. “The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults 60 years and older get vaccinated against shingles. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccination.”
A single dose of Zostavax® vaccine provides protection against shingles, a painful rash caused when inactive chickenpox virus awakens in the body of someone who once had the disease. Complications can include hearing or vision loss, scarring, muscle weakness, partial paralysis and long-term nerve pain, Grant said.
“Call the Health Department if you are interested in getting Zostavax® so that we can discuss Medicare Part D reimbursement, since the amount of cost-sharing for the vaccine varies,” she said. Other payment options, including Medicaid and some private insurance, are also available.
“Calling ahead is also a good idea to ensure the vaccine is available when you come in and that it is appropriate for you,” she said.
Zostavax® should not be administered to persons with compromised immune systems due to disease or cancer treatment with radiation or chemotherapy. Others who should not receive the vaccine include pregnant women and those who have had a reaction to any component of the vaccine, including gelatin and neomycin.
“Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease,” Grant said. “No serious problems have been identified with the shingles vaccine. It does not contain thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury.”
The most common side effects include redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. There is no documentation of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the shingles vaccine, which contains the varicella zoster virus.
For more information about the shingles vaccine, contact your local county health department or go to www.cdc.gov.