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Prevention

A vaccine called Zostavax is recommended for people 60 and over to help prevent shingles and to decrease the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia if shingles does occur. It is also approved for people 50 and over. The vaccine is given once. The ingredients in the vaccine are the same as the chickenpox vaccine for children, but the dose is 14 times stronger.

In a large study, patients who received Zostavax decreased their risk of developing shingles by 50%, and of those who did develop shingles, the ones who received the vaccine rather than the placebo had a 39% reduced risk of having post-herpetic neuralgia. The shingles vaccine is not effective for and should not be used in people with active shingles or people who already have post-herpetic neuralgia.

The standard chickenpox vaccine for children is still too new to determine how effective it will be in preventing shingles later in life.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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