Should I get the shingles vaccine?
I often hear that “herpes zoster is increasing”, whether it is because of increased stress due to the covid19 sickness, or due to changes in lifestyle habits that weaken the immune system.
While shingles is a familiar disease that affects one in three people by the age of 80, some people have neuralgia that lasts for years.
People over the age of 50 can receive preventive vaccines. Please consider taking it once again.
What is shingles
Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox.
The red rash in the form of a band is well known, but it is common to experience neuralgia such as tingling, itching, and throbbing before it. After that, redness and blisters appear on the skin in the painful area. In other words, it often happens in the order of “pain → painful skin symptoms”.
Also, the rash caused by shingles usually spreads in a band on either side of the body, with small blisters on top. It often occurs on the upper body, especially the chest and back, but it can occur anywhere on the body, including the face, arms, legs, and buttocks.
Why should the shingles vaccine be given to those over 50?
People over the age of 50 can get the shingles vaccine.
The reason why it is more important for those over 50 to get the vaccine is that it is easier for shingles to develop after the age of 50. It is estimated that one in three people will get shingles by the age of 80.
Why is it more likely to occur after the age of 50?
We informed you that shingles is caused by the same virus as chicken pox. For people who had chicken pox as a child, even after the disease is cured, the virus is not completely eliminated and remains hidden in the nerves.
When the immune system weakens due to aging, stress, or fatigue, the latent virus is activated and causes shingles.
After the age of 50, the immune system tends to weaken over time, and the number of people with diseases that lower the immune system, such as diabetes, increases, so shingles is more likely to occur.
People Who Should Get the Shingles Vaccine
As already mentioned, the herpes zoster vaccine is for people over the age of 50, but not everyone over the age of 50 needs it.
Shingles is caused by the latent virus being activated when you have chickenpox, so people who have never had chickenpox will not get shingles. Therefore, no vaccine is required.
The shingles vaccine is for people over the age of 50 who have had chickenpox or who previously had shingles.
By the way, some people who have chicken pox are unaware that they have it, and it is believed that 90% of Japanese adults carry the virus that causes shingles.
Neuralgia may remain after herpes zoster
If shingles is mild, it may heal on its own, though it may take 2-3 weeks, but in some cases it may become severe and leave residual effects.
Pain may persist even after the skin condition subsides. This is called postherpetic neuralgia, and it is more common in older people. It is reported that about 20% of people over the age of 50 develop postherpetic neuralgia. Some people have painful aftereffects that continue to hurt on a year-by-year basis.
Postherpetic neuralgia is thought to be caused by a virus that causes inflammation and damage to nerves. Therefore, in order to prevent such sequelae, it is important to treat as soon as possible and suppress the virus.
In addition, vaccination can prevent the onset of herpes zoster itself, and even if it does occur, it is reported to be mild, and the vaccine is effective in preventing sequelae such as postherpetic neuralgia.
Two types of shingles vaccine
There are two vaccines for herpes zoster.
“Biken,” a dry attenuated chickenpox vaccine that has been used for a long time as a vaccine for chickenpox and has been approved for the prevention of shingles since 2016, and “Shingrix,” which was approved in 2020 as a vaccine specifically for shingles.
Biken is given only once, but the efficacy is about 50%, and the efficacy decreases after 5 years.
Shingrix requires two doses at least two months apart, but it is more effective in preventing shingles up to 97% for those aged 50 and over, and 90% for those aged 70 and over. It is also reported that the effect can be maintained for 9 years.
In other words, Shingrix is more effective. However, side effects such as swelling and pain at the injection site are more likely to occur with Shingrix, and the cost of Shingrix is higher (since the treatment is self-funded, the price varies depending on the clinic).
Shingrix is the most effective vaccine, but if you are unsure about which vaccine to use, please consult your clinic.
At Medical Prime Takanawa, shingles vaccination (vaccine) is available at the “Takanawadai Ladies Clinic” on the 3rd floor.
At Medical Prime Shinkawa, vaccination against herpes zoster (vaccine) is available at the Hatchobori Kazu Internal Medicine and Surgery Clinic on the 3rd floor.
At Medical Prime Nihonbashi Kodenmacho, immunization (vaccine) for herpes zoster is available at the Saito Internal Medicine/Cardiovascular Clinic on the 3rd floor.
At Medical Prime Kanda, shingles vaccination is available at the Kanda Station East Exit Clinic on the 2nd floor.
Vaccine site for children and adults “Herpes zoster”