JointHealth™ express   July 20, 2018

Everything you need to know about the shingles vaccine (Shingrix®) if you have inflammatory arthritis or are on a biologic

What is shingles?

Shingles (Herpes Zoster) is an infection that causes a painful skin rash and can lead to a variety of more complex, serious conditions. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. VZV can stay in the nerve cells of an individual long after they recover from chickenpox. The virus may lay dormant for decades, and then reactivate and cause shingles when the individual’s immune system is more weak.

Individuals over the age of 50 have an increased risk of developing shingles as well as anyone who has a compromised immune system. Many people with inflammatory arthritis have a compromised immune system due to taking medications that partially or completely suppress the immune response of an individual.

What is different about Shingrix®?

Shingrix® is not a live vaccine, so individuals cannot develop shingles from the vaccine. Another shingles vaccine, called Zostavax®, is not suitable for individuals with a compromised immune system because it is a live vaccine.

Who should receive Shingrix®?
  • Shingrix® is recommended for adults over 50 to prevent shingles and related complications.
  • Your doctor may recommend you take the vaccine if you are under 50 if you have a compromised immune system.
  • The vaccine is recommended even if you do not remember having had chicken pox.
  • Individuals who previously received the Zostavax® vaccine, should still receive Shingrix®.
  • If you have previously experienced shingles, it is still recommended you receive the vaccine to prevent future occurrence. It is possible to experience shingles 2-3 times.
What else should I know about the vaccine?
  • The vaccine is administered in 2 doses. The second dose may be given between 2-6 months after the first dose.
  • Pain and redness at injection site are the most common reactions to the vaccine. Some people develop additional side effects such as a headache, fever or an upset stomach, lasting a few days.
The content of this newsletter is not medical advice. It is important to consult your doctor before taking Shingrix®. Together with your rheumatologist, you can decide what is best for you given your individual health history and circumstances.