What is Zostavax?
Zostavax, manufactured by Merck & Co Inc. Pharmaceuticals. is a vaccine designed to reduce the risk of contracting shingles, an infection that results from a dormant varicella-zoster virus reactivating in the body.
What are Shingles?
Shingles, herpes zoster virus, is the second phase of a two-part infection; the initial phase being the contraction of varicella (chickenpox). After chickenpox runs its course in the body – usually during childhood – the virus remains in the spinal cord and brain, lying dormant for years and even decades. The virus reactivates and reappears later on as the shingles virus, a full-body rash characterized by blisters on one side of the torso, sharp shooting pains, and weeks’ long discomfort.
How Does Zostavax Work?
Zostavax works by injecting a weakened form of the zoster virus into the body. The body fights off the weakened zoster virus, increasing the immune system’s resistance to the virus. The body’s heightened immune system is theoretically able to combat the actual zoster virus, reducing the risk that the reactivated virus will have any effect on the body.
Who Receives the Zostavax Shingles Vaccine?
Shingles are most common among adults aged 50+. You must have previously had chickenpox to contract shingles. Other factors such as immune efficiency, stress, physical trauma, long-term steroid use, and overall health can increase your chances of contracting the shingles.
The shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is available for patients 50 years and older.