The Shingles vaccine is approved for people over the age of 60 and has been available since 2006. The center for disease control and prevention (CDC) recommends that appropriate individuals 60 and over receive the vaccine to help prevent Shingles.

Trials were done for people aged 50-59 and the results are very promising, with the only problem being the risk of local reactions, including injection site reaction, redness, pain and swelling , and headaches. These adverse reactions were seen more often in the group that received the actual injection compared to those in the placebo group.

At the conclusion of the study, the data provided reassurance that the vaccine is generally safe and well tolerated. Merck received FDA approval for the 50-59 year age group earlier this year.

The vaccine is not used to treat shingles or the pain associated with Shingles, but is to increase immunity so patients do not experience Shingles. The vaccine is given as a single shot.

Shingles is a painful blistering disorder that occurs in patients that have had chicken pox in the past. The virus responsible for chicken pox lies dormant in the nerve cells and for some reason, reactivates itself causing Herpes Zoster, or Shingles. Approximately 20% of patients who have had chicken pox will get shingles.

Shingles is less contagious than chicken pox, however, people who never had chicken pox can contract it when exposed to an individual with shingles.

At first, patients experience redness and tenderness on the skin. This can last for 1 to 3 days and then a rash appears in that area. It is almost always only present on one side of the body. Fever and headache can accompany the rash. The rash then becomes clusters of blisters, which can last for 2-3 weeks.