I routinely read the section in JAMA that gives quick news updates. (But just so you know, I also scan the journal for relevant articles.) This last week one of the updates made me use my most favorite sentence: “I told you so…”.
Researchers analyzed data from 193,083 adults who received the shingles vaccine between 2007 and 2008. They were all 50 or older.. The only “adverse” event that they found that had occurred was a small increase in redness, swelling, and/or tenderness at the injection site. And no increase was seen in stroke, heart attack, meningitis, encephalitis, or Bell’s palsy. I recommended the shingles vaccine for everyone over 60 two years ago (see my archived article titled “Out, Out Damn Pox“) but that recommendation has been “down-aged” to 50.
So if you or a family member has not received it, get thee to a pharmacy or a physician who carries the vaccine. We have to assume that virtually all Americans who are 50 or over have had chicken pox. And once you’ve had it the virus it stays in your system forever! As we get older and/or develop diseases that stress our immune system, the virus can reappear and spread along a nerve root to form extremely painful lesions that may last for months. And even when those lesions fade, the irritated nerve can continue to cause severe pain. The shingles vaccine can significantly diminish the chance of this occurring, so frankly it’s a no brainer (or a no “never”).