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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Shingles Vaccine Does Work but Not as Effective for Seniors Over 70

Among older adults who get the vaccine almost 50% have reduced risk of acquiring the painful disease

By Sharyn Alden, Contributing Writer, Health Behavior News Service

Oct. 18, 2012 – The shingles vaccine works, but it works better for those under 70 years old, according to a new evidence review from The Cochrane Library. Shingles, which originates from the same virus as the childhood disease chickenpox, is painful and can severely impact quality of life for weeks or months.

Older adults who get the shingles vaccine have a nearly 50 percent reduced risk of developing the often debilitating disease, finds a new evidence review from.

 

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The vaccine is more effective for those 60 to 69 years old compared with people 70 and older since younger adults typically have a stronger immune system. However, those in their 60s may experience more frequent side effects from the vaccine.

 “The herpes zoster disease is an extremely painful condition that impacts the quality of patients’ lives. People over 60 are particularly susceptible to developing the disease, but fortunately nowadays we have a vaccine for it,” says lead study author, Anna Gagliardi, Ph.D., professor of geriatrics and gerontology at Federal University in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

About Shingles

Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus - the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. It may not cause problems for many years. As you get older, the virus may reappear as shingles. Unlike chickenpox, you can't catch shingles from someone who has it.

Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. The pain can be mild to severe. Blisters then form and last from one to 14 days. If shingles appears on your face, it may affect your vision or hearing. The pain of shingles may last for weeks, months or even years after the blisters have healed.

There is no cure for shingles. Early treatment with medicines that fight the virus may help. These medicines may also help prevent lingering pain.

A vaccine may prevent shingles or lessen its effects. The vaccine is for people 60 or over.

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

>> More on shingles at MedlinePlus

>> More about Shingles for Senior Citizens at NIH_SeniorHealth

Watch video, "What is Shingles" by NIHSeniorHealth.gov

The shingles virus remains dormant in the nervous system of anyone who had chickenpox. Later in life, when the immune system is more compromised, the virus may reappear in the form of shingles, a painful inflammation of sensory nerves.

Gagilardi noted, “Adults over 70 have less immunity reaction from the vaccine, but the vaccine works. In general, the vaccine is well tolerated and it produces few systemic adverse reactions and only a mild or moderate adverse reaction at the site of the vaccination.”

Researchers analyzed the effectiveness of the zoster vaccine from eight randomized controlled trials that included 52,259 people in several European countries and the U.S. The principal study, the Shingles Prevention Study, followed 38,546 participants for at least 3 years and one month after being vaccinated.

Jonathan S. Anderson, M.D., internist with the Dean Health System in Madison, Wisconsin, said, “The meta-analysis confirms what we knew before and what we see in practice: that the zoster vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles over subsequent years.

“Over the three years the study looked at the effects of the vaccine, the risk was cut in half. Fifty people would need to receive the vaccine for one person to benefit by not getting shingles. This is reasonable given that shingles is not only very painful, it can develop into a chronically painful condition which is often difficult to treat.”

Anderson added, “While the results of the study weren’t surprising it may provide some impetus to vaccinate people sooner when they are still in their 60s instead of waiting and continuing to discuss it with patients over time.”

The research is reported by the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

Ψ  Research Source: The Cochrane Library, Health Behavior News Service


Links to More Archived Reports About Shingles

Shingles, a Disease Primarily Striking Senior Citizens, Increases Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

A virus associated with MS is varicella zoster virus, the cause of herpes zoster (shingles) - see video on shingles - June 8, 2011


Herpes Zoster Vaccine Associated With Lower Risk of Shingles in Most Older Adults

Confirms other studies showing more than half of seniors will be protected by shot but they are still not getting it (not covered by Medicare) - link to video in story

Jan. 11, 2011


Family History of Shingles May Be Motivator to Get Vaccination

May 19, 2008 ... Researchers report those who do get herpes zoster, or shingles, are much more likely than others to have a family history of the condition.


FDA Says Senior Citizens Should Get Shingles Vaccine but Many Docs Not Buying It

Mayo Clinic study finds two issues – cost and perception that shingles primarily affects just those with weakened immune systems

Dec. 18, 2007


Top 10 Stories of 2006 by Harvard Health Letter Picks Key Ones for Senior Citizens

Lucentis for macular degeneration, Zostavax for shingles make list

December 4, 2006


Shingles Vaccinations Recommended for All 60 and Over

CDC committee says action needed to prevent painful disease

October 26, 2006


Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Approved for Senior Citizens

FDA says it is for those age 60 and older who are most at risk

May 26, 2006

 

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