Shingles Vaccination


What is Shingles?

Shingles is a painful skin disorder caused by the varicella zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes the chicken pox. Once a person develops then beats the chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus remains in the body, dormant until, for unknown reasons, it reactivates many years into a person's life. The resulting condition is called shingles.

About 1 million cases of shingles are diagnosed in the United States each year. Typically people only come down with shingles once in their lives.

Lymphoma patients as well as organ transplant patients can be particularly susceptible to shingles, since their immune systems are compromised, allowing for the virus to reactivate. For this reason, shingles is generally diagnosed in people 60 or older.

Vaccination against shingles

For people aged 60 and older, the shingles vaccine Zostavax was recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in 2006 to reduce the risk of shingles in that patient population.

The US FDA has approved Zostavax for people aged 50 and older, although the US Centers for Disease Control do not have a published recommendation on routine use of the vaccine in this population.

Who Should Not Get the Vaccine

There are some people who the CDC urges against getting the shingles vaccine (although the reader is always urged to discuss this with their health professional) and they are:

People with severe allergies, especially with allergies to gelatin or neomycin.

People with weakened immune systems, including:
- HIV/AIDS patients
- Patients on steroids
- Pregnant women
- Patients currently undergoing anti-cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Patients with lymphoma or leukemia.


CDC: Shingles Information Sheet

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