Shingles Vaccine Approved for Older Persons

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new vaccine for protection of people 60 years of age and older against shingles. The vaccine is called Zostavax (zoster vaccine, live). It has been shown in clinical trial to boost the body’s immunity against the varicella-zoster virus. A news release from the FDA indicates that Zostavax was studied in almost 40,000 individuals in the US before it was approved. After a 3 year period, these same individuals were evaluated. In persons over 60, the vaccine reduced the occurrence of shingles by about 50%. Shingles (medical term is herpes zoster) is a painful rash that affects a limited area of the skin and often makes the person feel tired. The only way to get shingles is to have previously had chickenpox (usually as a child). The virus stays dormant in nerve cells, and as the immune system weakens with age, the virus becomes active once again. The blisters that accompany the rash usually crust over and fall off in 8 to 10 days. Pain in the area of the rash usually lasts longer than the rash, but the pain most often goes away in one to three months.