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Shingles Vaccine Safe, Underutilized, Study Says

MONDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- The shingles vaccine is generally safe and well tolerated by patients, according to a new study.

Shingles, which affects more than 1 million people each year in the United States, is a painful contagious rash caused by the dormant chickenpox virus, which can reactivate and replicate, damaging the nervous system.

Elderly people are especially at risk because immunity against the virus that causes shingles declines with age.

In this study, researchers looked at data from more than 193,000 adults 50 and older who received the shingles vaccine, also known as the herpes zoster vaccine, over two years. There was a small increased risk of local reactions (redness and pain) from one to seven days after vaccination. This finding matches the results of clinical trials.

The shingles vaccine did not increase the risk for cerebrovascular diseases; cardiovascular diseases; meningitis, encephalitis, and encephalopathy; Ramsay-Hunt syndrome; or Bell's palsy, the researchers said.

The study was published online April 23 in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

The study supports the vaccination recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices "and reassures the general public that the vaccine is safe," study author Hung Fu Tseng, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif., said in a Kaiser news release.

Few people received the vaccine, which was licensed in 2006, the news release said. The CDC recommends it for healthy people aged 60 and older.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about shingles.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, April 23, 2012

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