Many health professionals will be selecting a week in May to promote the prevention of shingles through a Shingrix Awareness Week. Shingrix is a vaccine for the prevention of shingles (Herpes Zoster). It is given as a series of 2 doses, 2-6 months apart. The vaccine is now available without prescription and can be administered by your community pharmacist. It is available at no charge through Public Health supply to family physicians for adults aged 65-70, with a catch up this year to age 72, until December 2022. Many people beyond this age range will benefit from Shingrix and will choose to pay for the vaccine out-of-pocket or may have private insurance to cover the cost.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster) is a serious disease that commonly results in a very painful, blistering rash that occurs in one part of the body and can last for weeks. The pain can be severe, disabling, and interfere with your day-to-day activities. 9 in 10 Canadian adults carry the virus that causes shingles. Shingles that affect the eye (Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus) can lead to blindness and must be treated immediately. The risk of shingles increases with age and is also increased in people with autoimmune conditions. Vaccination is our best protection, as anti-viral treatments can still leave people with symptoms, including postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain) lasting weeks-months.
Although the recommendation for vaccination against shingles generally begins at age 50, it is now approved by Health Canada for adults 18 years old and older that have a deficient or suppressed immune system caused by known disease or therapy. As Shingrix is a non-live vaccine, it can be administered to people on advanced therapies for autoimmune conditions. The prior vaccine, Zostavax, is no longer available and its effectiveness is greatly diminished by 5 years. As a result, many adults have upgraded their protection with Shingrix. It is common for people to experience pain at the site of injection along with fatigue, aches, pains, and/or a low-grade fever for a day or two after the injection. Consult with your health care provider about vaccination against shingles.
Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.