The following information is taken directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.
In our area, the shingles vaccine is only available at the Albuquerque VAMC, because it must be kept frozen until used. Veterans must see their VA primary provider to obtain permission to receive the Vaccine.
Is there a vaccine to prevent shingles?
Yes. CDC recommends Zostavax for use in people 60 years old and older to prevent shingles. This is a one-time vaccination. Zostavax does not treat shingles or post-herpetic neuralgia (pain after the rash is gone) once it develops.
Is the shingles vaccine safe?
The FDA has licensed the vaccine as safe. The vaccine has been tested in about 20,000 people aged 60 years old and older. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. CDC, working with the FDA, will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccine after it is in general use.
The shingles vaccine is made of a weakened form of the chickenpox virus. Can a person who has received the vaccine infect others with this virus?
No. It is safe to be around infants and young children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems after you get the shingles vaccine. Transmission of the chickenpox virus from a person who has received the shingles vaccine has never been documented.
Some people who get the shingles vaccine will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the place where they were vaccinated. As a precaution, this rash should be covered until it disappears.
How effective is the shingles vaccine?
In a clinical trial involving thousands of adults 60 years old or older, Zostavax reduced the risk of shingles by about half (51 percent) and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67 percent. While the vaccine was most effective in people 60-69 years old it also provided some protection for older groups.
How long does the shingles vaccine last?
Research suggests that the shingles vaccine is effective for at least six years, but may last much longer. Ongoing studies are being conducted to determine exactly how long the vaccine protects against shingles.
Who should not get the shingles vaccine?
Some people should not get the shingles vaccine:
• People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
• People who have a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine.
• People with a weakened immune system as a result of leukemia, lymphoma, or any other blood or bone cancer.
• People with HIV/AIDS who have T-cell counts below 200.
• People being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, including high-dose steroids.
• Women who are or might be pregnant.
Can the shingles vaccine be given to people who have already had shingles?
Yes. People who have had shingles can receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. This is true no matter when they first got shingles.
How long must a person wait after having shingles to receive the shingles vaccine?
There is no specific time that a person must wait before receiving the shingles vaccine. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your doctor and be based on your specific circumstances. Generally, a person should make sure that his or her shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated.
Why is the shingles vaccine only recommended for people 60 years and older?
A person’s risk for getting shingles begins to rise around age 50. However, shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is only recommended for persons age 60 and older because the safety and effects of the vaccine were only studied in this group, which accounts for about half of all cases of shingles occurring each year in the United States. Future research will determine if the recommended age for vaccination should be lowered.
Shingles occurs in people who have already had chickenpox. Does it matter if a person remembers having had chickenpox?
Anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they recall having had chickenpox or not. Studies show that more than 99 percent of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember getting the disease.
Is it “worth it” for older people to get the vaccine?
Yes. The older a person is, the more severe the effects of shingles typically are, so all adults 60 years old or older should get the shingles vaccine. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine.
Does the shingles vaccine, which protects against herpes zoster, also protect against genital herpes?
No. The shingles vaccine is specifically designed to protect people against herpes zoster, which is another name for shingles disease. It will not protect people against other forms of herpes, such as genital herpes.
Is the shingles vaccine covered by insurance?
All Medicare Part D plans cover the shingles vaccine. The amount of cost-sharing (money you have to pay) for vaccination varies.
Medicare Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine. If you have private insurance or Medicaid, your plan may or may not cover the vaccine; contact your insurer to find out.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call Mike Dunaway, 247-2198, and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays, call Harriet Mulnix, (505) 793-1782.
Durango VA Clinic
The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. Durango, CO 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). Phone number is 247-2214.
For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.