Do All Adults Need the Shingles Vaccine?
Thanks to inventions in modern medicine, most adults don’t remember experiencing chickenpox, if the virus was contracted at all. But what many people don’t know is that the uncomfortable disease can strike again at an older age. Collectively known as shingles, the only difference between shingles and chickenpox is when the virus appears and wreaks havoc.
What is shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus is known as varicella-zoster. For most people, catching chickenpox as a child means that the body fights off the virus, and a person can go decades without experiencing side effects. However, the virus isn’t eradicated from the body. Instead, the virus hides in the nervous system, a process known as latency. Unfortunately, the virus may wait until a person is 50 or even 60 years old before reappearing as shingles.
What about people that never got chickenpox?
While never getting chickenpox as a child may seem like a cause for celebration, the opposite is true. For people that never contracted the childhood disease, a risk still exists for contracting shingles as an adult. Specifically, someone that never had chickenpox can contract the disease from a person infected with shingles, especially during the blister phase of the virus.
The vaccine caveat
Learning that childhood chickenpox can reappear as shingles is pretty devastating. But the reality is that individuals that were vaccinated against chickenpox as a child are also protected against shingles as an adult.
So which people should get the shingles vaccine?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any adult who is 50 years of age or older should get the two-dose shingles vaccine. The vaccine helps to minimize or prevent complications caused by shingles. More importantly, individuals who are unsure of chickenpox status, received the older Zostavax vaccine, which is no longer available, or have had shingles should get the vaccine. The vaccine is available in both medical offices and at many pharmacies.
Protecting against a virus in the future
Not having had chickenpox won’t protect a person from contracting shingles later in life. Because the virus can be incredibly infectious, people need to be proactive and get the vaccine. While some individuals aren’t eligible to take the shingles vaccine, by and large, the preventative measure can help to save many people from experiencing the pain and discomfort associated with contracting varicella-zoster later in life. For more information about vaccines, speak with a healthcare provider.