Childhood is filled with growth, development, and milestones. A babies first steps, a toddler’s first words, and for many children – chicken pox.
It seems odd that getting sick would be considered a milestone, but the fact remains that for many, they will only get chickenpox once, as the virus lays dormant in the body after the initial infection. However, while it does drastically lower your risk of getting the virus again, it is possible; except, as adults, you don’t get chickenpox – you get shingles.
Shingles is a painful rash, usually accompanied with blisters that can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. While the rash is certainly one of the most outwardly visible symptoms of shingles, the main concern for those afflicted is the pain, which can be quite severe.
So doesn’t that fact make the vaccine a good thing, especially knowing as we do how much it decreases the likelihood of the varicella zoster virus (chickenpox/shingles virus) reactivating in the body?
Yes and no.
For most adults over 60-years of age, the vaccine should definitely be on their list of things to do. The vaccine is not only beneficial in the prevention of shingles, but it also decreases the rip of post-herpetic neuralgia if shingles do occur. And it should be noted that you don’t have to be over 60-years old to get the shingles vaccine, for it has been approved for anyone over 50. In fact, even if you have had shingles before, you are encouraged to take the vaccine as it will lower your risk of getting it again.
So who shouldn’t take the vaccine? According to Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School, the list of potential patients not fit for the vaccine are as follows:
- Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of the shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
- A woman who is pregnant, or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least four weeks after getting the shingles vaccine. That’s because pregnant women have a somewhat weakened immune system.
- Anyone with a moderate or severe illness (including a temperature of 101.3 degrees F or higher) should wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. The vaccine is less effective when given to someone who is sick with another infection.
- A person who has a weakened immune system, and therefore might be made sick by the virus in the vaccine. People with weakened immune systems include those:
- with HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system;
- receiving treatment with drugs that affect the immune system (for example, prolonged use of high-dose steroids);
- receiving cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy;
- who have cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Shingles is a very painful and debilitating ailment, as is the post-herpetic neuralgia that can occur. And while the shingles vaccine is certainly a huge benefit to many people, it isn’t for everyone. If you have concerns about your eligibility for the shingles vaccine, we recommend talking to your doctor.