An Update on the Shingrix Vaccine
You may have heard the buzz about the new and highly effective Shingrix vaccine to prevent shingles. This vaccine is recommended for all adults ≥ 50 years of age. Anybody who has had the chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles.
How is shingles contracted?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingles as the virus remains dormant in the central nervous system and can reactivate causing shingles. The risk of developing shingles increases as the immune system naturally weakens with age. It is more common in people over 50 years of age and those with a weakened immune system. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime.
What is shingles?
Shingles, also known as the herpes zoster virus, is a blister-type rash along a nerve pathway that causes pain, and paresthesia (sensation of pricking or tingling). Often it appears on the body or face and may last 2-4 weeks. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea and chills. Pain is a common symptom and can be severe. The pain is described as burning, sharp, or throbbing. It can last for months to years after the rash has cleared. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia. This is a serious complication of shingles and can affect basic daily activities such as walking and sleeping. Other complications from shingles can include weakness, facial or muscle paralysis, loss of hearing or vision problems.
Is there treatment?
If diagnosed promptly, antiviral medication can be prescribed to treat shingles or to decrease the severity and duration. We recommend you see your health care provider immediately if you think you may have shingles, even if you have been previously vaccinated.
Can I get shingles more than once?
Yes. Vaccination is recommended for people who have already had shingles. It is recommended to wait at least one year after having an episode of shingles before receiving the vaccine.
Vaccines to Prevent Shingles
There are two shingles vaccines available in Canada. Zostavax has been available since 2008 and Shingrix since October 2017. Shingrix is more effective and is the recommended shingles vaccine as per Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.
If you have previously been immunized with Zostavax, it is recommended to receive the Shingrix vaccine at least one year after Zostavax.
Shingrix Vaccine Facts
+ It is administered to adults ≥ 50 years of age
+ It requires two injections given between 2-6 months apart
+ It is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles in those ≥ 50 years old, including those 70-85 years of age
+ It is an inactivated vaccine and can be administered to those taking immune-compromising medications, or to those with immune compromising health conditions.
+ The need for a booster dose following the primary vaccine schedule has not been established. Studies have demonstrated protection for at least 4 years after the primary series.
+ Side effects of the vaccine include soreness or redness to the injection site, fatigue, headache, stomach complaints, fever, or shivering