Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Better Shingles Vaccine

Human Health

Varicella Zoster: “[The] virus causes chickenpox in children, then lurks in the body for years and can cause painful shingles later in life,” Neighmond of NPR writes.
Image Credit: James Cavallini; Science Source
Source: NPR

Persons who have had chickenpox are at risk for shingles; the varicella virus responsible for shingles can stay dormant in the human body for decades before being activated. An article, by Patti Neighmond, in NPR says that a new shingle vaccine is being developed that will be more effective over time than the current one in use; it is also expected to be effective for a broad range of persons

In “Engineering A Shingles Vaccine That Doesn’t Wimp Out Over Time” (July 13, 2015), Neighmond writes:
There is a vaccine on the market. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it for people age 60 and older. But it's not very effective. It prevents shingles 64 percent of the time overall, but loses effectiveness as years go by, just when people are getting more susceptible. By the time people turn 70, the vaccine is only 38 percent effective.
A new vaccine that offers nearly complete protection against the painful shingles rash may be on the market as early as 2017.
The vaccine, developed by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, has proved to be effective more than 97 percent of the time regardless of age, says Dr. Leonard Friedland, GSK's director of scientific affairs and public health. That study involved more than 16,000 patients age 50 and older, with some patients well into their 80s. The high degree of efficacy was there for all ages, Friedland says.
What's different about this vaccine is something called an adjuvant — a chemical added to the vaccine with the sole job of "waking up" the immune system. The technology has been used in other vaccines, but not for shingles. Researchers are now looking at the potential for adjuvants in vaccines for older adults, says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
This is particularly wonderful news for people like me. I have had two bouts of shingles this year within six months of each other: the first quite severe and the second comparatively mild, yet they were two cases too many. I didn’t consider getting a vaccine after the first case of shingles, because I had erroneously thought it was not possible to get shingles more than once, and, equally important, the current vaccine, as the article notes, is not that effective. Another reason, less important than the other two, was that at age 57, I am younger than the recommended age for the vaccine.

Without a doubt, A better, more effective, vaccine would be welcome news. When it does become available, I will speak to my doctor about getting this shot. This is much more preferable than suffering another bout of shingles.

For more, go to [NPR]

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