Shingles Vaccine Clinics Protect Older Vermonters

For Immediate Release, May 5, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – Nurses at Vermont Department of Health District Offices immunized nearly 900 people between mid-February and April 18 in an effort to protect older Vermonters from developing shingles. Clinics will continue through the summer or as long as the supply of vaccine lasts.

Anyone over the age of 60 can sign up for the vaccine by contacting one of the Health Department’s 12 District Offices; the vaccine is most effective for adults in the 60-69 age range.

“One of the ways that public health works is to fill gaps in delivery of prevention services; shingles vaccine, which is new on the market and relatively expensive, is one of those gaps,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “The turnout so far has been very encouraging and we’re working hard to generate more interest in the vaccine at every one of our 12 district offices.”

Nearly a quarter of the $4 million appropriated by the legislature for vaccine was set aside by the Health Department for the shingles vaccine. Including donations from the public, the Health Department hopes to have enough vaccine to immunize about 10 percent of all Vermonters who are eligible for the shots.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body and can reappear years later, causing shingles. Shingles usually begins with burning or itching before a red rash appears. The rash soon becomes a group of blisters and can be painful enough that often a physician will prescribe a painkiller. Usually only older adults develop shingles, but it is possible for younger people and even children to get shingles.

Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine has been available in the United States since 1974. Even if you have previously had chickenpox, or been vaccinated against the disease, the virus remains latent in the nervous system and can be reactivated and cause shingles in elderly adults.

The vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles by about 56 percent, and reduces the risk of complications by nearly 66 percent. Each year in Vermont, approximately 156 people are diagnosed with shingles and hospitalized and several hundred seek medical care in an emergency room. The total number of people who develop the disease each year in Vermont is unknown. About 20 percent of people with shingles will experience post-herpetic neuralgia (persistent pain) which can last for months or even years.

For more information and contact information for the Department of Health District Offices, please visit http://healthvermont.gov/local/vaccine-clinics.aspx

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