What is shingles?
Herpes zoster (shingles) is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, which remains in your body but may stay inactive for years. Risk for shingles increases as we get older, but there is no way to tell when the virus will become active again.
Shingles can cause severe blisters/rashes (on the torso, limbs, or face), pain and burning. Rashes can last for weeks and can result in other complications such as bacterial skin infection, scarring, loss of hearing or vision, muscle paralysis, and long-term nerve pain. For most, the pain may lessen as the rash heals. But for about 1 in 5 people with shingles, long-term nerve pain can go on for months — even years. This is known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
Who is vulnerable?
- If you had chickenpox, the shingles virus is already inside you.
- The risk increases after the age of 50.
- About 1 in 3 people will experience shingles in their lifetime.
- By age 85, 1 in 2 will have had shingles.
- Aging, illness, stress, and skin irritation may all trigger an episode of shingles.
Why get the vaccine?
The shingles vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by 50%. However, if you develop shingles despite having been vaccinated, the vaccine can help reduce the incidence of postherpetic neuralgia by 67%. Postherpetic neuralgia is the type of pain that lingers after shingles.
The Zostavax (shingles) vaccine is approved by Health Canada. The shingles vaccine is recommended for those 60 years of age and older, but anyone 50 years of age and older can get the vaccine. A single dose is needed for protection. Protection lasts 8 years.
Where to get the vaccine and how much does it cost?
The Zostavax (shingles) vaccine is available and can be administered here at the Travel Clinic – Vancouver Coastal Health. The vaccine cost is $200 (with no admin fee, no dispensing fee, and no injection fee on top of this cost). Our clinic runs on a cost-recovery basis and since this vaccine is not publicly funded, we do try to keep the fees to a minimum. Some health insurance plans may provide coverage, so check with your provider.
Contact us at 604-736-9244 (before 5pm daily) if you are interested or have questions about the shingles vaccine.
If you are travelling, call us to book your appointment. We are fully staffed to get your assessment, prescriptions, and vaccinations covered all in one visit.