Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful and often debilitating condition affecting many individuals each year. The disease is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. As we age, our immune system weakens, making us more susceptible to shingles
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), approximately one in three Canadians will develop shingles in their lifetime. It is most common in adults over 50 and the incidence of shingles increases with age, with the highest infection rates in those over 80.
Shingles can cause significant pain, and approximately one in five individuals with shingles will experience post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This painful and long-lasting condition can persist for months or even years after the initial rash has healed. PHN is more common in older adults and those with weakened immune systems.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent shingles and its complications. Two vaccines have been used to prevent Shingles in Canada—Zostavax® and, more recently, Shingrix®. We are now getting questions from patients about a “shingles booster” they have heard about. Technically, it is not a booster.
Many individuals who have already received the Zostavax® vaccine may wonder why they need another shingles shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), studies have shown that Shingrix® is more effective than Zostavax® in preventing episodes of shingles (97% versus 51%), and it remains effective for a more extended period. The efficacy of Zostavax decreases significantly with age, whereas the effectiveness of Shingrix® does not appear to decrease considerably in different age groups.
The CDC recommends two doses of Shingrix® separated by 2 to 6 months for adults aged 50 years and older, whether or not they report a prior episode of herpes zoster and whether or not they report a previous dose of Zostavax.
In the United States, sources recommend administering Shingrix® as early as eight weeks after Zostavax. In Canada, the recommendations are slightly different, with a minimum waiting period of one year between Zostavax and Shingrix®. If you have received the Shingrix® series, it is not necessary to “boost.” If you have had active shingles, you should wait one year before receiving Shingrix®
If you have any questions about shingles and Shingrix®, contact your Dispensaries Ltd. pharmacist.