By Stephanie Woehl, RN, Coordinator of Communicable Disease Prevention with Springfield-Greene County Health
In preventive healthcare, few measures hold as much significance as vaccines. Among these, the shingles vaccine is a crucial defense against a painful and potentially debilitating condition. Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox. Therefore, anyone who had chickenpox can develop shingles later in their life.
Shingles is characterized by a painful rash that typically appears in a band or strip on one side of the body. The rash is accompanied by itching, burning, and tingling sensations, often causing discomfort that can be intense and prolonged. In some cases, shingles can lead to complications. One is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a chronic pain condition that can persist long after the rash has healed.
The primary benefit of the shingles vaccine is, of course, the prevention of shingles itself. The vaccine significantly reduces the risk of reactivation and subsequent shingle outbreaks by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies against the varicella-zoster virus. Even if a vaccinated individual does develop shingles, the vaccine has been shown to lessen the severity and duration of the illness. This can translate to a milder case with fewer complications and a faster recovery. Additionally, by preventing or minimizing the severity of shingles, the vaccine can effectively lower the risk of developing PHN.
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
The shingles vaccine is recommended for individuals aged 50 and older, as this is when the risk of shingles and its associated complications tends to increase. The current shingles vaccines is called Shingrix. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommends the Shingrix vaccine, which is administered in two doses, two to six months apart. Even if you have previously had shingles or received the older Zostavax vaccine, the CDC recommends getting the Shingrix vaccine for enhanced protection.
Springfield-Greene County Health, with support from the Greene County Senior Citizens’ Services Fund Board, offers the Shingrix vaccine at no charge to any Greene County resident aged 60 years or older. People ages 50–59, who are interested in the shingles vaccine should contact their healthcare provider. More information, appointments for those 60 and older, and a map of shingles vaccine providers can be found at vaccine417.com or by calling (417) 864–1658.
The widespread adoption of the shingles vaccine can have a significant impact on public health. By reducing the number of shingles cases and associated complications, healthcare resources are conserved, and individuals can lead healthier, more productive lives. Moreover, the reduction in shingles cases can alleviate the burden on healthcare systems, freeing up resources to address other pressing health issues.
Stephanie Woehl is a Master’s prepared registered nurse and Coordinator of Communicable Disease Prevention for Springfield-Greene County. She oversees the epidemiology program, vaccination clinic services, tuberculosis clinic, and the Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) program. Stephanie has been with the City of Springfield since 2015.