Q. I had shingles many years ago. So did my friend. Her doctor gave her a shingles injection so she won't get it again. My doctor said by having shingles I built antibodies to it and don't need the shot. Which doctor is correct?
A. Chickenpox during childhood can lead to shingles later in life. The virus (varicella zoster) can lie dormant in nerves near the spinal cord for decades. The virus can be reactivated and trigger an intensely painful skin reaction.
Zostavax was developed to prevent shingles in people over 60. The company excluded anyone who had previously experienced a shingles attack from the study. Consequently, the FDA does not allow the company to promote the vaccine for anyone who already had shingles.
We’re not surprised that the doctors disagree. Many were taught that shingles only happen once. That is not completely true. Although quite rare, some people can experience another bout with this virus (American Family Physician, April 15, 2000). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for vaccination even for people who already had one attack.