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HEALTH, NATURALLY: New shingles vaccine better than last

According to the government of Canada, one in three Canadians will get shingles within their lifetime. (123RF)
According to the government of Canada, one in three Canadians will get shingles within their lifetime. (123RF)

Shingles is a viral infection which affects nerves and leads to a painful skin rash. Almost any area of the body could be affected by the shingles rash including the leg, back, chest, arm or face. If you ask a person who’s had shingles, they will likely tell you that it is one of the worst pains they have ever experienced. Shingles pain can indeed be intense and last for months or even years. According to the Government of Canada, one in three Canadians will get shingles in their lifetime.

There is no cure for shingles and for this reason there is a large focus put on effective strategies for preventing the infection. You are more likely to get shingles if you are more than 50 years of age or have a suppressed immune system, which could be caused by certain immune suppressing drugs, HIV or cancer, says the government of Canada.

Up until recently, only one vaccine has been available to Canadians for the prevention of shingles. This vaccine, Zostavax, reduces the risk of getting shingles by about 50 per cent among people who take it. Within the past year, a new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, was released. Thankfully, the research emerging over the past year has been suggesting that this vaccine is more effective than Zostavax.

A new large scale review study has been published on Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine, which helps to clarify its safety and effectiveness. This study, published this October in the journal BMJ, reviewed the results from more than 27 unique studies and two million patients who received the Shingrix vaccine.

The results of the study illustrated that the Shingrix vaccine is 85 per cent more effective than the Zostavax vaccine for the prevention of shingles. The safety of the two vaccines was also found to be similar. There was no difference in the rate of serious adverse effects between the two, however, there was a higher rate of discomfort among the people who received the Shingrix vaccine.

Considering the large size of this review study, these findings strongly support using the newer Shingrix vaccine over the older Zostavax vaccine.

“There haven’t been any head-to-head studies comparing the two shingles vaccines, so the results from our systematic review can be employed by policy-makers, clinicians and patients to make their decisions on the use of these vaccines,” states Dr. Andrea Tricco, a scientist with St. Michael’s Hospital’s and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, in an article.

Considering that a third of Canadians contract shingles in their lifetime and the disabling pain that comes with the infection, the Shingrix vaccine should be seriously considered by anyone over the age of 50.

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