New Shingles Vaccine Can Spare Older Adults Severe Nerve Pain
National Adult Immunization Awareness week Sept. 23 - 29
September 18, 2007
Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) is now offering a new vaccine that helps prevent shingles, a blistery skin rash that can be particularly painful in older adults and cause long-lasting nerve pain.
As part of National Adult Immunization Awareness Week, Sept. 23-29, CCHS is encouraging adults 60 and older to get the new shingles vaccine, said CCHS Immunization Coordinator Erika Jenssen. The national event aims to raise awareness about the importance of adult immunizations to protect against serious illnesses such as pneumonia, tetanus, and the flu.
There are about one million cases of shingles annually in the United States. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox, even as a child, is at risk. However, shingles is more common among people over 50 and those with a weakened immune system. Though shingles usually clears up in two to four weeks without any lasting problems, one in five people suffer lasting nerve pain, called post herpetic neuralgia, Jenssen said.
"For some people, especially older adults, shingles can cause severe nerve pain that can last for months or longer and keep coming back. Fortunately, this new vaccine can help prevent this," Jenssen said. "The Health Department has been receiving a lot of calls from people eager to get the vaccine because they know how terrible shingles can be."
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox, usually in children. VZV can flare up years later as shingles, which itself isn't contagious but can cause chickenpox in another person who hasn't had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it.
The shingles vaccine is approved for people 60 and older. Anyone interested in the shingles vaccine should ask their health care provider about availability. Medicare Part D covers at least part of the vaccine's cost. The shingles vaccine is available for $175 along with other adult vaccinations at the Public Health immunization clinics (though flu shots don't start until October 16 and will offered during special hours). Clinics are on a first-come, first-serve basis and locations include:
- Brentwood: Public Health Department, 171 Sand Creek Road, Suite A, 1 - 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays.
- Concord: Public Health Department, 2355 Stanwell Circle, 1 - 4:30 p.m. Fridays.
- Pittsburg: Public Health Department, 2311 Loveridge Road, 1 - 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
- Richmond: Public Health Department, 39th St. and Bissell Ave., 1st Floor, 1 - 4:30 p.m. Mondays.
For more information on the immunization clinics, visit the CCHS website (www.cchealth.org/services/immunization/) or call 1-800-246-2494.
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- Erika Jenssen