Women Veterans Health Care
Shingles Vaccine Awareness
You may not realize that you need vaccines throughout your life, but talking to your health care provider about recommended vaccinations is an important part of healthy aging.
Shingles—a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body—affects almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, meaning anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles, with the risk increasing with age. Studies show that more than 99 percent of Americans age 40 and older have had chickenpox.
Vaccination is one of the most effective, convenient, and safe preventive care measures against the shingles virus. About half of all shingles cases occur in men and women 60 years or older. It is recommended that people 60 years or older get vaccinated for shingles, which reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51 percent and the long-term pain from post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) by 67 percent.
What else do I need to know about shingles?
If you had chickenpox, the virus may stay inactive in the body and reactivate years later, causing shingles. Before the rash develops, you might have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears.
Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles can be spread from a person with shingles to another person who has never had chickenpox. In this case, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but they would not develop shingles. If you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine. There is no maximum age.
How do I reduce my risk?
Shingles vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and a common complication of shingles called post postherpetic neuralgia (lasting pain at the site). The Shingrix vaccine can prevent these conditions by more than 90% in people aged 50 and older. Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of the Shingrix vaccine, separated by 2 to 6 months, to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease. The vaccine is recommended for people who had shingles previously, did or did not have chickenpox in the past, or received the earlier shingles vaccine, Zostavax. There is no maximum age for Shingrix.
What do I need to know about vaccines?
The shingles vaccine went through rigorous testing and has been approved for many years. Both the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to monitor vaccines after they are licensed. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about the vaccine.
Talk with your VA provider.
Talk with your VA provider for more information and to find out if the shingles vaccine is right for you.
If you are 65 years or older there may be other vaccines recommended for you so be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
Check out these resources:
- VHA aims to help you stay healthy. Visit the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Get Recommended Screening Tests and Immunizations.
- See the fact sheet, What You Need to Know about Shingles and the Shingles Vaccine.
- VA has established a Women Veterans Call Center—which can be reached by calling 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)—to provide women Veterans, their families, and caregivers’ assistance with VA services and resources.
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