Shingles vaccine recommended for older patients

Number of people getting shingles is rising


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Last year, 86-year-old Barbara Maxwell, a retired teacher, felt a burning sensation in her head. 

Maxwell suffered from shingles, a rash that comes from the same virus that causes chicken pox. It lays dormant in our nerves for years and when it wakes up, the results are painful.

"She ended up getting shingles in her eye and nasal cavity and it traveled all across her head," said Maxwell's son, Tim. "She was in terrible pain and ended up getting hospitalized."

The number of people getting this condition is on the rise. 

"It can happen in times of stress, when you are sick, or sometimes it can happen with no rhyme or reason to it," said Dr. Jennifer Rabbat with Memorial Healthcare System.

Fortunately, there is a shingles vaccine, and there is a big campaign to spread the word about the shot. However, the vaccine is not foolproof, which is why early detection is so important.

Older people are at a greater risk for infection. Rabbat recommends the vaccine to all of her patients over the age of 60.

The vaccines doesn't work 100 percent of the time, but a recent study of people 60 years and older revealed that it reduced their risk by more than 50 percent. 

For those who do get the shingles, the vaccine reduces the severity of the infection by almost 70 percent.

Attacking the virus early on is vital, according to Rabbat.

"The reason you want to treat it sooner than later is that you can have complications from it or nerve pain that lingers well after the infection has cleared," Rabbat said.

Some doctors are now recommending the vaccine for patients between 50 and 60 years old. However, not all insurance companies will cover the cost, and the vaccine can be expensive.

Maxwell spent weeks in the hospital with shingles, and her kidneys started to fail. She has since returned home.

"It changed her life," Tim Maxwell said. "It definitely changed her quality of life. A year later and she's still going through it."