The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Thursday, May 15, that people 60 and older be vaccinated against shingles.
Shingles, which is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, is a blistering skin rash most common in older people. It usually ends after four weeks, but one in five victims develop long-term nerve pain. Other complications can include scarring and loss of vision or hearing.
The CDC report said that more than 95 percent of Americans are infected by chickenpox, and as many as one in three infected people develop shingles later in life.
The Boston Globe interviewed Dr. Martin S. Hirsch, a member of the infectious disease unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, who has had shingles himself and has seen its severe complications in patients.
“The vaccine itself is pretty safe. The only problem with it is that it’s expensive,” Hirsch told the Globe. But “the payments for a case of shingles or post-herpetic neuralgia are far greater than one would have to pay for this vaccine.”
The single-dose vaccine, made by Merck, can cost more than $150. People over 65 who have the Medicare Part D prescription plan will have the cost covered.
– By Elizabeth Andersen, staff editor