Related topics

Experts: New shingles vaccine more effective

April 1, 2018

A new shingles vaccine called Shingrix has proved especially effective at protecting adults against the painful rash and virus, experts say.

But getting adults to use Shingrix and other shingles vaccines is not easy, according to an article in Kaiser Health News.

A new schedule for adult vaccines for people 19 and older was published last month following a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most significant change was the CDC’s recommendation of the Shingrix vaccine.

Shingrix, the CDC guidelines said, should be given in two doses between two and six months apart to adults 50 and older. The guidelines suggested people who had received Zostavax, an older vaccine, be revaccinated with Shingrix.

Shingrix was 96.6 percent effective in adults ages 50 to 59 in clinical trials, while Zostavax was 70 percent effective, Kaiser Health reported.

Dr. Marc Itskowitz, an Alle­gheny Health Network internal medicine physician, said the vaccine is more effective than others. He plans to use it on his patients.

“It’s more durable,” he said.

Dr. Alex Viehman, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh’s division of infectious diseases, said Shingrix has been shown to work better with the older population.

“Shingles can be relatively painful and scary,” he said.

Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. It can re-emerge decades after the chickenpox. Once a person develops chickenpox, the virus never leaves the body. It remains dormant, sometimes for decades, until something reactivates it.

About 1 in 3 Americans will get shingles in their lifetime, and there are about 1 million cases every year, Kaiser Health reported.

Shingles can develop at any time, but it seems most often to hit people whose immune systems are depressed. Age alone may increase the risk. Stress, either physical or psychological, can trigger an outbreak. So can chronic illness, use of steroids or certain cancer treatments.

In most cases, the blisters crust over and begin to heal within five to seven days.

The nervous system is more actively involved in a bout of shingles than of chickenpox, making the “returning” disease more complex and painful than the initial childhood illness.

Because the virus follows the path of nerve fibers, a shingles outbreak usually occurs on one side of the body only. The pattern of fluid-filled blisters can help doctors make a diagnosis.

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at selliott@tribweb.com, 412-871-2346 or via Twitter @41Suzanne.