ATLANTA – An influential government advisory panel recommended on Wednesday that Americans 60 and older get vaccinated against shingles, an excruciatingly painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
The recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices usually are accepted by federal health officials, and they influence insurance companies’ decisions on which vaccinations to cover.
Shingles is a blistering skin rash that is most common in older people. It usually goes away after four weeks, but one in five sufferers develops severe long-term nerve pain known as postherpetic neuralgia. Complications also can include scarring and loss of vision or hearing.
Antiviral medications are of limited help, and some doctors say such drugs do not prevent shingles from progressing into postherpetic neuralgia.
No vaccine was available until May, when the Food and Drug Administration licensed Zostavax, made by Merck & Co.