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Shingles Vaccine Looks Like a Safe Bet for Seniors: Study
Date:1/11/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Jane Adrian, 61, a landscape architect in Glendale, Calif., saw her parents and two co-workers suffer from the painful, blistering condition known as shingles, so when the vaccine became available, she got it.

Even though the vaccine is only about 55 percent effective, "it's better than nothing," she said. "Now I feel relieved."

A study of a cross-section of adults enrolled with a health-management organization in southern California shows that the vaccine provides protection for many older adults without many side effects.

The findings are published in the Jan. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus and only strikes people who have had chicken pox. It usually starts as a rash on one side of the face or body, often causing pain, itching and tingling. About a million cases occur in the United States each year, and attacks can last two to four weeks.

"Even after the rash has healed, the pain can last for months or even years," said lead study author HungFu Tseng, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif.

Zostavax, as the vaccine is called, was approved in 2006, based on the results of clinical trials. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the shot for eligible people aged 60 and older.

Tseng's team wanted to test the vaccine's real-world performance, so they compared 75,761 vaccinated members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan to 227,283 members who elected not to have the shot. Kaiser funded the study.

In vaccinated individuals, the rate of shingles was 6.4 cases per 1,000 people in a year while it was twice that -- 13 per 1,000 -- in the unvaccinated population, the investigators found.

The vaccine also reduced the risk of ophthalmi
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