The shingles (zoster) vaccine is administered in order to prevent shingles, as well as shingles related post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is the nerve pain that follows shingles and can last a long time. 

This article will provide detailed information on what the shingles are, what the zoster vaccine is, how it is effective and why individuals should consider obtaining the vaccine.

What are the shingles?

The shingles is an infection that causes a rash on a person. This rash can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, and often only occurs in one part of a person’s body. The rash can last for several weeks, and on rare occasions, it can lead to weakness, bacterial skin infections, and other upsetting symptoms. 

Shingles originates from the same virus as the well-known condition, chickenpox. This virus is called the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). If a person gets chickenpox, the VZV can stay dormant in a person’s body and reactivate at a later date and cause shingles. 

In some cases, the pain from shingles can last for months, or years, even after the blisters have healed. This pain is usually in the nerves and is called post-herpetic neuralgia. 

Shingles can come about from an awakening of the dormant cells. Shingles are often triggered by a compromised immune system, so often stress, strong emotional reactions and trauma can bring it about. It can also be triggered by age, illness and medication.

Shingles can be contagious if a person is in direct contact with the fluid from the blisters of a person who actively has the shingles. This can only occur if the person in contact with the fluid has not had chickenpox before. The shingles are only contagious when the rash is newly blistered. Shingles cannot be caught by an individual who does not yet have blisters, or if the blisters have crusted over. 

What is the shingles (zoster) vaccine?

The Zostervax is a popular vaccination around the world for shingles. This vaccine is very similar to the chickenpox vaccine. It requires only one dose and carries a weak version of the chickenpox virus. It has been suggested that the Zostervax will provide a person with protection from shingles for at least 5 years, and possibly longer. 

Research has shown that Zostervax has been used all around the world, including in the United States and the United Kingdom, and is extremely safe. Just like any other medication or vaccine, there may be some minor side effects. If a person chooses to have a shingles vaccine, their chosen medical professional will be able to talk them through these, what to look for and what to do. 

If a person has a weakened immune system, the Zostervax may not be suitable, as it contains a live vaccine. In this case, a person may be offered a non-live alternative which will help boost their response to the vaccine. 

Who should get the shingles (zoster) vaccine?

Older people are more at risk of shingles, especially those over the age of 50. The pain and symptoms from shingles also worsen with older people. Shingles are very painful and should be taken seriously. 

This is why it is recommended that any over the age of 50, is administered with the shingles vaccine for protection. 

Why is obtaining the shingles (zoster) vaccine important? 

Zostavax is known to reduce the risk of a shingles outbreak by approximately 51%, and post-herpetic neuralgia by approximately 67%. Approximately 1 in 5 people who have experienced chickenpox, are likely to go on to experience shingles at a later age. Shingles have been known to have fatal results for approximately 1 in 1000 people who are over the age of 70.  

The vaccine is important to help protect those from unnecessary pain, suffering and potential long term complications. The vaccine is not just for individuals who have not had the shingles, it is also known to be effective in those who have had shingles before, and can help boost a person’s immunity against any more attacks. 

It is important before obtaining the shingles vaccine that you speak to a medical professional, to obtain the correct information and ensure you are eligible to receive it. This will enable you to check if you are allergic to any of the components found in the vaccine, or if you have any medical problems or allergies that do not pair well with the vaccine. 

Getting the vaccine is a wise choice for older individuals, to help protect them from the pain and suffering that accompanies a shingles outbreak.