Shingles Vaccine Now Available at King’s Dubai
In recent years, medical advancements have revolutionised the field of preventive healthcare, allowing individuals to protect themselves against a range of debilitating diseases. One such breakthrough is the shingles vaccine, an immunisation that has transformed the lives of millions of people worldwide. The shingles vaccine, which is now available at King’s College Hospital London in Dubai, offers a reliable defence, reducing the risk of developing this distressing condition and its associated complications.
Dr Hasan AlOgaily, Consultant Family Medicine at King’s, has shared the significance of the shingles vaccine, examining its composition, effectiveness, and importance in safeguarding both individual health and public well-being. He also delves into the underlying science, the recommended vaccination schedule, and the benefits of widespread immunization.
What is Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus). After a person has had chickenpox, the virus can remain asleep in the nerve tissue near the spinal cord and can re-emerge as shingles later in life, usually when a person’s immune system is weakened, either through significant stress or chronic diseases including while a person is taking medications that weaken the immune system. Furthermore, immunity naturally begins to decline beyond the age of 50, which results in an increased risk of developing shingles with advancing age. Shingles has no seasonal predisposition, so it can affect a person at any time during the year.
Why is the Shingles Vaccine Important?
It is important to get vaccinated against shingles because shingles, also known as ‘Herpes Zoster’, is quite a common infection affecting 1 in 3 people within their lifetime. This is a very painful and potentially serious viral infection that can cause long-lasting complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which affects up to 32% people who have had shingles. PHN is a severe and excruciating pain that can occur after the shingles rash has healed which can be difficult to treat and can severely affect a person’s quality of life. Additionally, around 10-20% of shingles cases affect the facial nerves which can result in an eye disorder called ‘Zoster Ophthalmicus’, that can lead to serious eye complications including blindness.
Who Should Receive the Shingles Vaccine?
The vaccine is recommended for all adults over the age of 50, and it is recommended that all adults receive the vaccine even if they have had shingles infection before. The vaccine is given as two doses, separated by a period of 2 to 6 months.
The vaccine is also indicated for all adults over the age of 18 who have a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or who are due to start any treatment that results in immunosuppression, including medications such as high dose long term steroids and biological therapies, and cancer chemotherapy. In these situations, the two doses can be given 4 weeks apart to provide rapid and effective protection before commencing the treatment.
For anyone suffering from a chronic illness that can potentially make a person more susceptible towards developing the infection, including Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, Liver Disease, Lung Disease including Asthma and Kidney Disease, it is recommended to seek further advice from their family doctor or specialist consultant to discuss if the shingles vaccine is required.
How Effective is the Shingles Vaccine?
The shingles vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent shingles and its complications, with 2 doses providing 97% effectiveness at preventing the infection. Getting vaccinated can also reduce the risk of developing PHN by 91% if a person does get shingles. Additionally, the vaccine can reduce the severity and duration of the shingles rash and lower the risk of complications such as vision loss, pneumonia, and hearing problems.
What are the Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine?
The side effects following administration of the shingles vaccine generally last no more than 1 to 2 days, and can include mild fever, shivering, headaches, fatigue, injection site soreness and muscles aches.
It is not recommended to have the shingles vaccine while someone is pregnant or breastfeeding or has any severe acute illness or an active shingles infection at the same time.
Can I be Vaccinated with Shingrix Vaccine if I’ve Been Vaccinated with Zostavax Before?
Yes, because Zostavax is only 51-57% effective against shingles, it is possible to have the Shingrix vaccination, at least 8 weeks after the Zostavax was given. There is no upper age limit for this vaccine.
Overall, the shingles vaccine is an important and highly effective tool in protecting us against this painful and potentially serious viral infection.