Younger patients say shingles vaccine should be offered to everyone

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by KHOU.com staff

khou.com

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 1:26 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 27 at 1:34 PM

HOUSTON—A vaccine has been approved that may prevent shingles.

If you’ve ever had chickenpox, you can get shingles -- they are from the same virus.

The vaccine is highly effective, but it’s only approved for people age 50 and older. That’s the high-risk group, but lots of younger people get shingles, too.

The virus enters the nervous system after chicken pox. It awakens during times of stress or when the immune system is weak.

It is most often associated with patients over age 60.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least a million Americans get shingles each year.

The FDA-approved vaccine can reduce the chances of getting it by at least 50 percent.

Dr. Melanie Mouzoon, a pediatrician at the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, only recommends the vaccine for patients over sixty. She worries so-called underage users could risk complications, such as rashes. Plus, it’s expensive.

“People under age 50 frequently will ask for the vaccine and sometimes physicians will order that,” she said. “It’s not FDA-approved for that age range, and so it’s not covered by insurance and people will have to pay out of pocket.”

Though it could cost hundreds of dollars, some shingles sufferers said they would have at least liked the option of trying it.

“I guess I kind of felt like I didn’t have to go through all that, if I could have just gotten vaccinated before,” said Hugo Rodriguez. “I don’t want to go through it again.”

Although it is rare, some victims can get shingles again.

The vaccine can have side effects, but its main drawback may be price.  A shot can cost a few hundred dollars. That is 10 to 20 times the cost of a flu shot.

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