If you’re 50 or older, get the shingles vaccine

This is a good news story for anyone fifty years of age or older who wants to avoid the pain or after effects of shingles. If you’re in this age group, get this vaccine as soon as you can. Here are the details of why:

The AP reports, “The Food and Drug Administration … expanded approval of a shingles vaccine from Merck to patients between the ages of 50 and 59. The vaccine, called Zostavax (zoster vaccine live), is already approved for patients of 60 years and older.”

Bloomberg News reports, “‘The likelihood of shingles increases with age,’ Karen Midthun, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. ‘The availability of Zostavax to a younger age group provides an additional opportunity to prevent this often painful and debilitating disease.'”

According to a Medscape story, the approval was based on a “multicenter placebo-controlled trial conducted in the US and four other countries among approximately 22,000 adults who were 50 to 59 years of age.”

HealthDay noted, Zostavax reduced the risk of acquiring shingles by “about 70 percent, compared to people who received an inactive placebo,” the FDA said.

However, those who get shingles after the vaccine only get very mild cases and have virtually 100% protection of the very painful nerve damage that shingles can cause, called post-herpetic neuropath (PHN).

Avoiding PHN makes the cost of the vaccine look inexpensive.

Commonly reported side effects included “injection-site redness, pain and swelling.”

However, WebMD pointed out that the “biggest drawback to Zostavax is its cost. The catalog price is about $161.50, about 10 to 20 times the cost of flu vaccine.”

The Boston Globe “Daily Dose” blog noted that the expanded vaccine approval “doesn’t solve the problem of the shortage of the vaccine.” The limited supply may “become even more of a problem as a larger group of folks attempt to get vaccinated.

So, a word to the wise, if you can afford it, get it … asap.

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