Herpes Zoster FAQs

August 17, 2008 by admin 

FAQ’s about Herpes Zoster

 

Is there a vaccine to prevent Herpes Zoster?

Yes. Zostavax, made by Merck, was licensed May 25, 2006 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in people 60 years old and older to prevent Herpes Zoster. This is a one-time vaccination. Zostavax does not treat Herpes Zoster or post-herpetic neuralgia (pain after the rash is gone) once it develops.

Can the Herpes Zoster vaccine be given to people who have already had Herpes Zoster?

Yes. People who have had Herpes Zoster can receive the Herpes Zoster vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease.

Why is the Herpes Zoster vaccine only recommended for people 60 years and older?

A person’s risk for getting Herpes Zoster begins to rise around age 50. However, Herpes Zoster vaccine (Zostavax) is only recommended for persons age 60 and older because the safety and effects of the vaccine were only studied in this group, which accounts for about half of all cases of Herpes Zoster occurring each year in the United States. Future research will determine if the recommended age for vaccination should be lowered.

How are vaccine recommendations made?

Once a vaccine is licensed by the FDA, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) votes on whether to recommend this vaccine, and if so, who should get it and at what ages. Neither the ACIP nor the federal government makes mandates or laws requiring immunization for adults. Recommendations made by the ACIP will be reviewed by the Director of CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Has the ACIP recommended the FDA-approved vaccine?

Yes. The Herpes Zoster vaccine was recently recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to reduce the risk of Herpes Zoster and its associated pain in people 60 years old or older.

 

Is the FDA-approved vaccine safe?

The FDA has licensed the vaccine as safe. The vaccine has been tested in about 20,000 people aged 60 years old and older. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. CDC, working with the FDA, will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccine after it is in general use.

How effective is the FDA-approved vaccine?

In a clinical trial involving thousands of adults 60 years old or older, Zostavax prevented Herpes Zoster in about half (51%) of the people and post-herpetic neuralgia in 67% of the study participants. While the vaccine was most effective in people 60-69 years old it also provided some protection for older groups.

Will zoster vaccine be covered by Medicare for Medicare beneficiaries?

While details are evolving, it is anticipated that zoster vaccine will not be covered under Medicare part B (which covers influenza and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine as well as hepatitis B for moderate and high risk persons). The vaccine will instead be reimbursed through the Medicare Part D program.  Beneficiaries should contact their Part D plan for more information.

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