KCTV5 special report explores the shingles vaccine - KCTV5 News

KCTV5 special report explores the shingles vaccine

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As we all rush to get the flu shot, there's another vaccine people may not know about. It guards against a debilitating disease that's linked to the common childhood illness chickenpox.

The word shingles is enough to make sufferers cringe. The burning pain is intense and the rash is unsightly. Shingles is a virus from chickenpox that lays dormant in our nerves for years and, when it awakens, the results are painful.

"It starts affecting that nerve and it comes out with sores along the skin and a lot of pain usually," said primary care doctor Brent Beasley.

Beasley commonly sees shingles in his practice and said, while it typically affects older people, anyone can get it.

"It really does hurt," he said.

A person is more susceptible if they've had chickenpox, if they're older, if they have cancer, a weakened immune system or when they're under great physical or emotional distress.

In 2006 the FDA approved a vaccine for those 60 and older. Just last year the agency expanded the list to include adults 50 to 59. Beasley said it's not foolproof, but any prevention beats none.

"You've got a 50/50 chance that this might work and that's actually pretty good odds when it comes to vaccinations and medical care," he said.

A way to keep shingles from coming back is the good news, but there is also bad news.

"A couple of my main concerns about the vaccination right now is that people don't know it's available. We do need to get the word out to our senior citizens that any age over 60 qualifies for this," Beasley said.

Another reason people may not get the shot is the cost. Unlike the flu shot, it's not widely covered by private insurance companies and could run as high as $220. Pharmacists said it is sometimes covered by Medicare Part D, but even then there is a copay.

It's advised that those who think they're a candidate for the vaccine talk to their primary care doctor.

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