Shingles: To Vaccinate or Not
– That is NOT the Question
Shingles, also known as zoster or
herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused
by the varicella zoster virus, the same
virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve
had chickenpox (virtually everyone), you
are at risk of getting shingles.
• One of every three people 60 years
old or older will get shingles.
• Half of these people will develop
severe pain (post herpetic neuralgia)
lasting months or even years.
• One in 5 cases involve the eye,
which can lead to serious complications
including chronic pain, glaucoma and
severe vision loss.
For reasons not entirely clear, the
incidence of shingles has been increasing
dramatically in the last 15 years. The
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) estimates that half
of individuals who live to age 85 will
develop shingles.
The only way to reduce the risk of
developing shingles and the longterm problems that can ensue is to get
vaccinated. Recently the CDC lowered
the recommended age for vaccination
from age 60 to 50 and older.
The really great news is the CDC
recently approved a new vaccine,

Shingrix. It is much more effective than
the older vaccine (greater than 90%
decrease in shingles versus about 60%
with the previous vaccine).
Current recommendations from
the federal agency responsible for
immunizations recommends:
• Shingrix be used instead of the older
vaccine, Zostavax.
• All immunocompetent individuals 50
or older receive the vaccine. Individuals
with weakened immune systems
including cancer patients receiving
chemotherapy, patients with HIV/AIDS
and individuals with certain allergies
should check with their physicians.
• People who have had shingles in the
past should still receive the vaccine.
• Individuals who have had the
previous vaccine should have the
newer one because Zostavax loses its
effectiveness over time.
A prominent ophthalmologist who
has written about the new vaccine puts it
bluntly, ‘… getting shingles in your eye is
one of the worst things that can happen
to an eye. It can literally go on for the rest
of your life.’

Dr. Stephen H. Uretsky is a board-certified ophthalmologist with 30 years
of practice experience who specializes in comprehensive eye care. Coastal
Jersey Eye Center features an optical center, Classic Eyewear, which
provides eyeglass frames and lenses to suit every style and budget. For
more information on eye exams or to schedule an appointment, please call
the Linwood office at 609.927.3373 or 609.465.7926 for the Cape May Court
House office. Visit online at