To prevent a potentially painful, uncomfortable outbreak of Shingles, adults should be aware of the two available Shingles vaccine options, then determine how to best proceed with their care.
In this post, we’ll examine what Shingles are, how to identify symptoms, what the difference is between the two Shingles vaccines, who should get immunized and where to get vaccinated.
What are Shingles?
Shingles (also known as Herpes Zoster) are a rash that affects one in three Americans and typically appears on one side of the body. It can cause itching, burning, pain and discomfort. After a few days, this rash forms blisters that contain fluid (similar to chickenpox, as it’s caused by the same virus—varicella zoster). The ailment typically lasts two to five weeks.
The signs and symptoms of shingles include the following and often occur in the days that lead up to the discovery of the first rash:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Tingling sensations in specific, localized areas of the body (back, chest, abdomen, etc.)
- Dizziness and/or nausea
- Headaches that don’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers
- Fever and chills
- Vision complications
- Myalgia (muscle pain characterized by a feeling of piercing needles)
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Sensitivity to touch
What is the shingles vaccine?
The shingles vaccine is an effective way to prevent an outbreak of shingles and the possible complications that can lead to postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). There are two common vaccinations offered by medical professionals today that are both licensed and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). They are:
The Shingrix vaccine, which is the recombinant zoster vaccine recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The shot, used since 2017, is administered on the upper arm, in two doses separated by two to six months. The Shingrix vaccine is proven to be 90% effective at preventing both Shingles and PHN.
The Zostavax vaccine, which is the live zoster vaccine that has been in use since 2006. If a person is allergic to Shingrix and is 60 years of age or older, this shot can and should still be used as an alternative, but it is no longer the preferred vaccine.
Who should get the Shingles vaccine?
Healthy adults, 50 years of age or older, should get the Shingrix vaccine, even if they’ve had shingles previously or can’t recall if they’ve had chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox (usually in childhood) the virus remains dormant in the body indefinitely and can reactivate years later and cause shingles. Those 60 years or older could choose the Zostavax vaccine instead.
There are a few exceptions for who should get the shingles vaccine:
- Women who are pregnant or think they could be pregnant
- Those with severe or potentially life-threatening allergies
- Anyone with a weakened immune system (patients with cancer, AIDS, etc.)
- Anyone who has a mild illness (they should wait to get the vaccine until they are well)
Be sure to check with your doctor if you’re unsure if you are a good candidate for the shingles vaccine. The risks for side effects in healthy adults to receive the vaccine are minimal.
After the shot, patients may experience headaches as well as soreness or itching around the area in which it was administered. In rare cases, patients may have an allergic reaction, faint, suffer shoulder pain, experience dizziness or have difficulty breathing.
Talk to a doctor for more information
To learn more about how to prevent shingles, schedule a consultation with the team at Western Washington Medical Group Family Practice or if it’s more convenient, visit a Walk-in Clinic. For more general inquiries, complete the form on this page.