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Shingles Vaccine: September 07, 2011

When a vaccine to prevent shingles was approved in 2006, the FDA recommended it for people 60 and older who previously had chicken pox. But doctors say people are not beating a path to their door.

“People don’t jump at it like they would the flu vaccine,” says Dr. Bruce Lipschutz, internal medicine physician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Shingles isn’t life threatening, but can cause a painful rash or band of blisters.

“We may have an episode of pain around the ribs around the front or back around the legs. These are nerve patterns and that’s why they hurt so much, and the virus causes tremendous inflammation,” says Dr. Lipschutz.

But only a small percentage of older Americans are getting the shingles vaccine. A study showed up to 75% of them got the flu shot and 60% got the pneumonia shot. Compared to only 10% who got the shingles shot.

It works better than scientists expected, lowering the occurrence of shingles 55%. Steven Klein is at risk, because he had chicken pox and at 65, is in the target age.

“Have you ever heard of the shingles vaccine? The shingles vaccine? No.”

12% of those who get shingles develop complications including postherpatic neuralgia. It can also lead to skin and eye infections. About 30% of us will develop it at some point. Still word of the immunization is slow to spread.

“The people who come to me who are most interested, are the people who have shingles themselves or had family members with shingles,” says Dr. Lipschutz.

“If I did have it, yes I’d be interested in taking it,” says Steven.