Q:If someone has already experienced a Shingles infection would it be appropriate to give them the shingles vaccine? – CC, St. Louis, MO
Zostavax® is a vaccine approved for use in people 60 years of age and older for the prevention of infection by the varicella zoster virus which causes a condition commonly referred to as “Shingles.” Following the infection a person may have nerve pain that can be severe, lasting for months or even longer. According to the manufacturer, Zostavax® is only approved for the prevention of shingles before the condition develops and should not be used to treat shingles or post-herpetic pain. The efficacy of the vaccine on the incidence of shingles infection has been reported to be 51% overall but this decreases with age as follows: Ages 60-69 – 64% efficacy, Ages 70-79 – 41% efficacy, and Ages 80 or older – 18% efficacy. On a practical note, Zostavax® comes in a vial that must be kept frozen before reconstitution. And, following reconstitution it must be administered by subcutaneous injection within thirty minutes. You can obtain more detailed information on the product at www.zostavax.com.