CDC Updates Shingles Vaccination Recommendation

People age 60 and older should be vaccinated against shingles, or herpes zoster, a condition often marked by debilitating chronic pain, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended yesterday.

CDC recommends a single dose of the zoster vaccine, Zostavax, for adults 60 years of age and older even if they have had a prior episode of shingles. The new full recommendation replaces a provisional recommendation that CDC made in 2006, after the vaccine was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended by CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a committee of immunization experts who advise CDC on immunization policy.

The recommendation was published in an early release electronic edition of CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR). Researchers found that, overall, in those ages 60 and older the vaccine reduced the occurrence of shingles by about 50 percent. For individuals ages 60-69 it reduced occurrence by 64 percent. The most common side effects in people who received Zostavax were redness, pain, tenderness, swelling at the site of injection, itching, and headache.

The risk of contracting shingles increases with age starting at around 50, and is highest in the elderly. Half of people living to age 85 have had or will get shingles. The risk of suffering chronic pain also increases with age.

Shingles Facts:

  • Anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles. That means 95 percent of adults are at risk.
  • Approximately one-third of the U.S. population will get shingles.
  • More than half of older adults do not understand the seriousness of shingles and its complications.
  • Among those who get shingles, more than one-third will develop serious complications. The risk of complications rises after 60 years of age.
  • Appropriate and immediate treatment of herpes zoster can control acute symptoms and reduce the risk of longer term complications. Starting anti-viral medication within 72 hours of the onset of shingles can reduce the pain and the length of time the outbreak lasts.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/default.htm.

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