Shingles Vaccine

by Bella Rum

A vaccine for shingles was licensed in 2006. If you’re not familiar with shingles, you’re lucky. It’s a very painful skin rash with blisters – Herpes Zoster or just Zoster. It usually appears on one side of the face or body and last from 2 to 4 weeks. It can be very debilitating, and the pain can persist long after the rash is gone, but that only happens in about 1 out of 5 cases.

You can only get shingles if you’ve had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, but it’s rarer to get it due to the chickenpox vaccine. The virus stays in your body and is inactive, but can cause shingles many years later. It’s more common in people over 50.

The shingles vaccine is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm. The most common side effects of the shingles vaccine are redness, pain, tenderness and swelling at the injection site, and headaches.

The shingles vaccine isn’t recommended if you:

* Have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine

* Have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, lymphoma or leukemia

* Are receiving immune system-suppressing drugs such as steroids, adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), radiation or chemotherapy

* Have active, untreated tuberculosis

* Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Source: Mayo Clinic

You can get the shingles vaccine at your local pharmacy. Call around and find out who’s giving it and if they still have any of the vaccine on hand. There have been shortages and you may have to put your name on a wait list.

My doctors recommended that I get the vaccine, and that’s what I did yesterday. It reduces the risk of shingles by 50 percent, and if you are one of the unlucky ones and still get shingles, you’re likely to get a milder case. The price of the vaccine is around $220.oo. Some insurance policies pay part of the cost. Mine did not. Ouch! That hurt worse than the vaccine.

As we waited at Walgreens, H read the facts sheet the clerk handed to us, which is where I got most of these nice, little facts. I already knew most of them, but it was all new business to H. I swear, the man didn’t even know the parts of his body till recently. He’s the antithesis of a hypochondriac He was the most willingly ignorant human being on earth about his health and body. All that has changed since he hit 60. Now he reads everything – a little obsessively, methinks.


This is the conversation I had with H while waiting for my injection.

H ~ Did you know this stuff is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox?

Bella ~ Uh huh.

H ~ Did you know that it stays in your body, inactive, and can cause symptoms years later?

Bella ~ Yep.

H ~ Did you know it causes nasty, painful blisters?

Bella ~ Yep.

H ~ Is this the stuff they used to quarantine people on deserted islands for?

Bella ~ Um, that would be leprosy.

H ~ I knew that.

Bella ~ …..

H ~ I did.

Learn more about shingles, and the shingles vaccine.

Edited January 17, 2011 to add the information in the quote box regarding side effects of the shingles vaccine, and a list of  circumstances in which it isn’t recommended.