ZocdocAnswersIf someone can get shingles more than once, how does the shingles vaccine work?

Question

If someone can get shingles more than once, how does the shingles vaccine work?

I'm 35 years old, and suffering from an oubreak of shingles. I've been told that there is a vaccine for shingles, and also that I could have another outbreak in the future. I'm wondering if getting the shingles vaccine would be beneficial to me, but I don't understand why and/or how getting a vaccine would prevent another outbreak, but actually having an outbreak wouldn't prevent another.

Answer

The shingles vaccine (known as Zostavax) is a vaccine for the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). As you may know, this is the same virus that causes chicken pox. In fact, the chicken pox vaccine and Zostavax are the same vaccine, just in different doses. Data on the utility of Zostavax shows us that patients who get the vaccine are half as likely to get Zoster (shingles) again. Thus the protection against another outbreak is moderate at best, though probably worth it for anyone that has had to endure a Zoster outbreak. You probably have some immunity to the VZV virus already, but the vaccine may boost that immunity. Keep in mind that shingles outbreaks occur from activation of a virus that you already have (that you obtained when you got chickenpox as a child), and you already have at least some immunity to it. Thus this outbreak represents a laps on your immune systems ability to keep the virus in check. I think it is important that you figure out why this happened. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can give you their take on the Zoster vaccine and review any reasons why you had this outbreak. You may require an investigation into causes of immune system deficiency.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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