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Posts Tagged ‘Zostavax’

Chicken Pox for Adults? Introducing Zostavax. By Our June Student Pharmacist, Andy Dauner.

Blog 2 - Zostavax Image 1

Whether from a TV ad or a question from your friendly local pharmacist, you may have heard about the Zostavax vaccine. This vaccine is designed to protect you from the varicella zoster virus, which is the virus that causes shingles.

Shingles appears as a painful, itchy rash often near the waistline, shoulders, or facial area. Shingles usually occurs in people who are 60 years of age or older, but children can have it as well (although it is not very common). Believe it or not, this virus is already inside almost everybody’s body.

The varicella-zoster is the same virus that causes chicken pox in kids. After the chicken pox resolves, the virus lies inactive in the body and can reactivate years (even decades) later for reasons not fully understood. Therefore, anybody who had chicken pox as a child can develop shingles later in life. Shingles is not contagious, however, a person who never had chicken pox can contract it from contact with a shingles rash.

The main concern with shingles is that it is very painful and can cause nerve pain that persists even after the rash resolves. Avoiding these complications is rather easy, as the Zostavax vaccine can help to protect from developing shingles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anybody over the age of 60 receive the Zostavax vaccine. The FDA has approved it for use in any person 50 years of age or older. The vaccine has been shown to protect people who receive it for five years after immunization. Protection beyond the five year time span is uncertain.

People at highest risk for shingles are those who are over 60 years old, as the body’s immune system tends to decline around this age as people grow older. Also, people who have diseases that suppress the immune system (such as diabetes) or who are on medications that lower the immune system (such as steroids) are also at increased risk.

The vaccine is given subcutaneously, usually in the triceps area. Unlike the flu vaccine (which is given intramuscularly in the shoulder area), Zostavax is associated with less soreness after being given.

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Zostavax can be given by a pharmacist without a prescription and is often covered by Medicare Part D and private insurance companies. Remember, the pharmacy can always attempt to run the vaccine through your insurance to let you know of any costs before officially billing you.

If you have any questions about the Zostavax vaccine, your friendly pharmacy staff will be more than happy to answer them for you!

Sources:

CDC.gov/shingles

Zostavax.com

Zostavax package insert

Shingles Prevention. By Our August Student Pharmacist, Joshua Kretzer.

Chicken pox affected many of us when we were children resulting in a rash and sores covering the head, arms, and body. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a highly contagious virus that causes the chicken pox infection. VZV typically infects children under 15 years of age. However, VZV can also affect adults.

Once you have been infected with the virus, it remains inactive in your body’s nervous system for life. After infection, it is unlikely you will develop chicken pox a second time. You are, however, at risk of developing shingles.

Shingles can be a very painful condition commonly resulting in a rash on the back that continues around to the stomach. The rash often appears in line patterns on one side of the body.

Other symptoms that potentially occur include:

  • Burning
  • Shooting pain
  • Tingling
  • Itching
  • Blisters
  • Fever/chills
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen glands

The rash is not limited to the body but can occur on the arms, legs, and face, as well. When the face is affected multiple other symptoms can develop including:

  • Difficulty moving muscles in the face
  • Drooping eye lid
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of eye motion
  • Taste problems
  • Vision problems

The pain associated with shingles can range from mild to severe and can last from weeks to years after the blisters have healed.

Shingles occurs due to re-activation of VZV from the nervous system. It is unknown why the virus becomes re-activated.

Certain people are at a greater risk of developing shingles including:

  • People older than 50 years old.
  • People who had chickenpox before 1 year of age.
  • People who have weakened immune systems.
  • People who take medications that weaken the immune system.

Shingles does not only occur in the elderly. Everyone is at risk of developing shingles. You are just at a greater risk of developing shingles as you get older.

Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. The virus can, however, still be passed to someone who has not been exposed to the virus. Therefore, if you have shingles avoid contact with anyone who has not had chicken pox or the vaccine against chicken pox (young or old–adults can get chicken pox too!).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for shingles. We can, however, prevent shingles through vaccination. Zostavax (also known as the shingles vaccine) is our main line of defense against shingles. By receiving Zostavax, you are able to reduce your risk of developing shingles by up to 50%!

There are still some people who get shingles even after vaccination. Those that do get vaccinated, however, have much milder symptoms than those who don’t receive the vaccine.

Zostavax can be given starting at the age of 50 and is recommended in everyone 60 years and older. Zostavax is a one-time vaccine that can be administered by any pharmacist!

And did I mention that you no longer need a prescription to receive Zostavax?  That’s right! No prescription needed! So stop in anytime and see us. We would be glad to discuss any questions or concerns you may have and then get you vaccinated!

Remember, prevention is the best medicine!

Zostavax Vaccine for Shingles. By Pharmacy Intern John Bishel (You Can Call Him J. B.).

Hello, everyone. This is John Bishel, the intern at Plain City Druggist for the month of March, writing this blog posting. If you have not met me, I am currently in my last year of pharmacy school at Ohio State (Go, Buckeyes!) and I have been helping Joe around the pharmacy. I have the opportunity of reaching out to you to talk about the shingles vaccine with this post.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash due to a virus called varicella-zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox.  Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates.

What is in the shingles vaccine?

The shingles vaccine known as Zostavax® contains a weakened form of the chickenpox virus. The vaccine can help prevent you from getting shingles. As with all things in medicine, the vaccine is not 100% effective, but is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help prevent shingles in patients 60 years of age and older who have a history of chickenpox.

Who is recommended to get the shingles vaccine?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that patients with a history of chickenpox (about 9 out of 10 of us) and older than 60 years old receive the Zostavax® vaccine. Zostavax® is not recommended, though, in patients who are currently immunosuppressed, taking immunosuppressive medications such as steroids, pregnant, allergic to gelatin or neomycin (an old antibiotic commonly found in Neosporin®), or allergic to any ingredient in the vaccine. Feel free to ask Joe, Robin, or any of the pharmacists if they believe the vaccine is right for you.

Do I need a prescription from my doctor?

In the state of Ohio, a prescription written within the last 30 days from your physician is required to give you the Zostavax® vaccine in the pharmacy.

Why do pharmacists administer the vaccine?

Because of the cost of the vaccine (~$225) and the restriction that it be administered within 30 minutes of mixing, many doctors’ offices have refrained from providing the vaccine.

Are there side effects?

About 50% of people experience redness, pain, or swelling around the injection site. Other common reactions include itching, warmth, and headache. Most other reactions are rare and can be discussed with your physician or pharmacist.

How much does it cost and is it covered by my insurance?

That is a great question and we can always process a prescription for you to find out. I would recommend calling your insurance company’s 800 number to ask them to estimate the cost for you. Zostavax® is covered for most patients over 60 years old and for those covered by Medicare Part D.

Please feel free to ask any questions that you think of to the wonderful pharmacists at Plain City Druggist. Also ask your doctor at your next visit if they think Zostavax® is right for you.

To read more about shingles or the vaccine please visit these websites:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001861/

http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/z/zostavax/zostavax_ppi.pdf