In response to the increased awareness of shingles and the vaccine for it, and the Barton County Health Department has received requests for the inoculation, said Health Director Shelly Schneider.
Some have also asked about the department’s policy on administering the treatment for the painful skin rash.
“There have been some questions on why the Health Department isn’t administrating the shingles vaccination to people aged 50 that come in with a doctor’s order,” Schneider said. To explain, the BCHD follows the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations for vaccines.
Falling under the Centers for Disease Control, the ACIP has deduced that age 60 is the appropriate age to receive the shot, she said. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the vaccine for people aged 50, but there is concern that the vaccine may lose its effectiveness within 10 years, yielding the patient less protected.
“The overall age of the population is increasing, which is making it necessary to protect the elderly for many more years,” Schneider said.
Shingles is a rash, often with blisters, also referred to as herpes zoster or just zoster. Investigators estimate that about 1 million cases of shingles occur per year in the U.S.
The FDA licensed the herpes zoster vaccine in 2006 and it has been approved for persons aged 50 or older. In clinical trials, the vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 50 percent and it can also reduce pain in people who still get shingles after being vaccinated.
Schneider said a single dose of shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older per the ACIP, but upon counseling and signing of a waiver, adults 50-59 years of age may receive one dose of shingles vaccine at the department. Those 60 years and older will be vaccinated per ACIP recommendations without signing a waiver.
What is shingles? The CDC offered the following information:
• Shingles (Herpes Zoster) is very closely related to chicken pox (varicella-zoster).
• One must have had the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster) in order to have shingles, either by disease or the chickenpox vaccine (live varicella-zoster attenuated virus).
• The chickenpox virus may remain in a dormant state in the body after an individual has chickenpox, usually in the roots of nerves that control sensation.
• About one out of five people previously infected with chickenpox experiences the virus “waking up,” or reactivating, often many years or decades after a childhood chickenpox infection.
• When the virus is reactivated and causes shingles.
• People cannot get shingles directly from someone else with shingles. However, if an individual has not had chickenpox, they can get chickenpox from close contact with open blisters of anyone with shingles (elderly, adults, pregnant females and babies are all contagious).
Researchers do not know what causes this reactivation, Schneider said. What is known is that after reactivation the virus travels along a sensory nerve into the skin and causes shingles.
The majority of people who get shingles are over the age of 60; it infrequently occurs in younger people and children.
Because the protection offered by the herpes zoster vaccine waned within the first five years after vaccination, and duration of protection beyond five years is uncertain, it is unknown to what extent persons vaccinated before age 60 years will be protected as they age and their risk for herpes zoster and its complications increases.
Because duration of protection offered by the vaccine is uncertain, the need for revaccination is not clear.
If you have any questions, contact the Barton County Health Department at 620-793-1902.