The risk of shingles in Australia has doubled between 2000 and 2010.Shingles will often cause a painful, debilitating illness with extensive skin lesions, and the possibility of long term nerve damage. About 30% of people with shingles develop Post herpetic neuralgia, defined as significant pain lasting more than 3 months after shingles.

The shingles vaccine has been recommended by Australian Immunisation authorities since 2009, but the vaccine has rarely been available, so we did not promote it until now, when it is readily available.

Zostavax is the adult varicella vaccine, and is 14 times more potent than the childhood varicella or chickenpox vaccine.

It is recommended for adults over the age of 60 years.

It achieves over 50 % reduction in incidence of shingles in all age groups, and over 60 % reduction in Post herpetic neuralgia.

The vaccine is not covered by the PBS, and will cost $280.00. DVA Gold card holders, however can access the Vaccine on prescription for $6, and Private Health insurance rebate is around $150, if patients are covered.

It is a live vaccine, so Immuno suppressed patients, with the following conditions will not be able to have the vaccine leukaemia, lymphoma and other bone marrow or blood diseases, and those on very high doses of cortisone. It should not be given within 1 month of the pneumonia vaccine.

It is advised to wait 3 years after a shingles episode before vaccination.

Dr Sharon Woolf

sw

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