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Boggio Family of Pharmacies

Boggios: A healthy choice for your whole life

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus). After the chickenpox blisters heal, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells in your body. It can become reactivated after many years resulting in shingles. It is not known exactly why the virus becomes reactivated, however it is thought that having a weakened immune system along with physical trauma, UV light or stress may play a role. The risk of developing shingles increases with age and people over 50 years old are at the greatest risk. The symptoms include a painful, blistering rash that often breaks out in one part of the body, usually the chest or upper back are involved. Sometimes the pain resulting from shingles can last for weeks, months, or rarely years, after the rash heals. This lasting pain has been described as burning, aching, throbbing or stabbing and can result from something as little as a breeze or the touch of clothing on the skin. Older people are again at greater risk. Shingles may also result in skin infections at the site of the rash or scarring following healing of the rash.

Fortunately, a vaccine is now available to boost your immune system and help to prevent shingles and its complications. It is called Zostavax and is available to adults over 50 years old. The vaccine cannot be used if you are already experiencing symptoms of shingles; it is only used for prevention. The vaccine is given as a single dose by injection just under the skin of the upper arm by a doctor or trained nurse. As all medicines and vaccines can have side effects, some people may experience redness, pain, swelling, or bruising at the site of injection or headache. These are the most common unwanted effects, but they are usually minor. This vaccine was found to reduce the risk of developing shingles by about 50-70% (depending on your age) within the first year after receiving the vaccine.

Zostavax must be stored frozen below -15 degrees Celsius until the day it is to be used. Only a few pharmacies currently have the correct storage facilities for this vaccine to be able to stock it. Zostavax is available from all of the Boggio Family of Pharmacy locations.

Zostavax is safe for most people, however it should not be used by anyone who:

  • is allergic to zoster vaccine or to any of the ingredients of the medication (including gelatin)

  • is pregnant

  • has a weakened immune system (e.g., due to cancer, HIV/AIDS, problems with bone marrow, or other immune system problems)

  • has active untreated tuberculosis

  • has had a serious allergic reaction (hives, face swelling, difficulty breathing) to neomycin

  • takes high doses of steroids (e.g., prednisone, methylprednisolone) by injection or by mouth

Since this is a relatively new vaccine, it is not known if it will provide protection from shingles for longer than 4 years.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information and advice about shingles and to find out if the Zostavax vaccine is right for you.

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