Fortune’s Pharmacy provides a shingles vaccination service to adults aged 50 years and over (the service is also available to those aged 18 years and over who are at a higher risk of shingles due a low immune system).
What is Shingles?
Shingles is an illness caused by a virus. It usually involves a painful skin rash with blisters limited to a particular part of the body. Usually the rash occurs on just one side of the body and is localised to parts of the skin linked to a particular nerve. Shingles is caused by the Varicella-Zoster virus – the virus that causes chickenpox. When someone gets chickenpox, the virus remains with them for life and lies dormant in nerve endings. It is usually kept dormant by the body’s immune system. When the immune system weakens, for example with age, the virus can reactivate to cause shingles.
Shingles can occur at any age but is more common in older patients. Up to 1 out of 3 people may develop shingles at some stage during their life.
Shingles starts with sensations of itching, tingling, numbness or pain in a region of skin. Other early symptoms can include headache, tiredness, muscle pain, fever and intolerance of light. These symptoms are followed by an itchy rash with small blisters which crust over after a few days. Healing of the rash usually takes a few weeks.
The main complication of shingles is pain in the affected area of the rash. This is known as post herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This usually lasts for between 3 and 6 months but may persist for years. PHN is more common in older patients. In addition, the rash can sometimes become infected with bacteria. This usually requires treatment with antibiotics. Shingles affecting the eye can be very serious.
If you have had shingles previously, you can still receive the shingles vaccine.
The shingles vaccine appears to provide substantial protection against shingles for at least 7 years. It is not yet known if patients will need further booster doses or, if so, when. The shingles vaccine cannot be given if you have had a serious allergic reaction previously to any of the vaccine ingredients; if you have a low immune system due to disease or treatment; if you have untreated active tuberculosis (TB); or if you are pregnant. In addition pregnancy should be avoided for 1 month following vaccination.
What is involved
There are two shingles vaccines available in Ireland – Zostavax and Shingrix
Shingrix is administered as a two dose schedule with between 2 and 6 months between the doses. It is given in the upper arm. Clients who have a compromised immune system can get their second dose between 1 and 2 months after the first. Immunity seems to last for at least seven years. It is not known yet if a booster is needed. Shingrix is more effective than Zostavax. This vaccine cannot be used if you have had a previous anaphyaxis reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients.
Zostavax is given as a single dose in the upper arm. Zostavax appears to provide substantial protection against shingles for at least 7 years. It is not yet known if patients will need further booster doses or, if so, when. It cannot be given if you have had a serious allergic reaction previously to any of the vaccine ingredients; if you have a low immune system due to disease or treatment; if you have untreated active tuberculosis (TB); or if you are pregnant. In addition pregnancy should be avoided for 1 month following vaccination.
Shingles vaccine is administered by prior appointment only as a private service. One of our trained pharmacists will administer your vaccine in the privacy of our consultation area. Our pharmacist will explain the process to you and will answer any questions you may have. You should wear something appropriate so that we can gain easy access to this area. Vaccination will not proceed if you are unwell with a temperature of over 38°C or if, following consultation with our pharmacist, there are any other reasons for you not to receive it. After you get the vaccine, we recommend that you remain in the pharmacy for 15 minutes. This allows us to monitor you for signs of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a rare but serious side effect of all vaccines. Typical side effects following the shingles vaccine include soreness and redness at the injection site, headache, and rash.
I have had shingles – can I get the vaccine?
If you have had shingles we recommend that you wait at least 12 months after the lesions have healed before getting the shingles vaccine.
Please contact us.