A form of the virus that causes chickenpox, shingles affects the nerve roots in the body, causing pain, itching, rash, headache, blistering of the skin, and dizziness. Shingles most commonly affects people over the age of 60. Known as Zostavax, the shingles vaccine is only given in 1 dose and is recommended for adults ages 60 and over.
If untreated, shingles can last 2 to 4 weeks. Onset is often the result of a weaker immune system due to advancing age, stress, serious diseases such as cancer or AIDS, or physical stress to the body, such as that from sunburn.
In terms of vaccinations, the shingles vaccine is fairly new on the market, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Because Zostavax is a new vaccine, it means researchers do not have a significant amount of long-term research as to its efficacy. However, current estimations say the shingles vaccine is effective for 6 years at least, possibly longer in some individuals.
A booster shot may be given to patients after this time. While the vaccine is most effective in protecting those ages 60 to 69, it has been shown to reduce symptoms in older persons.
Who Should Not Get the Vaccine
The shingles vaccine is not recommended for certain people, due to the likelihood of an allergic reaction or to the weakening of the immune system, as the vaccine contains deadened forms of the chickenpox virus. Among those who should not get the shingles vaccine: those allergic to gelatin, neomycin (an antibiotic) or another component of the shingles vaccine; those who have active, untreated tuberculosis; those who have an autoimmune disorder, such as HIV/AIDS; those taking medications such as steroids or chemotherapy; and those who have had cancer affecting bone marrow or the lymphatic system.