Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Shingrix versus Zostavax for People with MS

People with MS may be at higher risk of getting shingles because of reduced immune system function due to disease-modifying treatments. High-dose steroids, often used during relapses, may also increase the risk of a shingles outbreak.

One of the biggest differences between these two shingles vaccines is the fact that Zostavax contains a live-attenuated (weakened) virus to stimulate the immune system, while Shingrix is a non-live, subunit vaccine that works by introducing only a small part of the actual microbe. Those of us living with multiple sclerosis or many other chronic diseases take medications that reduce the effectiveness of our immune systems. Because of this we can’t receive vaccines that contain live virus, which would put us as even greater risk of developing the very disease we’re trying to protect ourselves from.

Since Shingrix does not contain live virus, it should be much safer for people with lowered immune systems. My doctor was very happy to inform me of this during our routine medical visit. I was thrilled to learn the news. ACIP should issue recommendations on the use of Shingrix in people with compromised immunity in February 2018.

Even if you've already had shingles, it is still a good idea to be vaccinated. An episode of shingles might provide a few years of protection from recurrence, but that protection fades away. People who have already had the Zostavax vaccine can also receive the Shingrix vaccine. In fact, the ACIP recommends it.

My experience with shingles

In August 2005, I was still in the process of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was prescribed a five-day course of intravenous solumedrol (IVSM), followed by an oral steroid taper, to reduce inflammation. It was an extraordinarily stressful time because the steroids temporarily reduced my immune system. By the time September rolled around, I began to develop small, itchy blisters on one side of my face and neck. I recognized the outbreak as shingles because a family member had recently contracted the virus.

Several antiviral medications — acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir — may be used to reduce the severity of shingles and shorten its duration. But these medications need to be taken as soon as possible after the shingles rash appears in order to be effective. Since I recognized my own case of shingles, I went to the ER for assessment and treatment. It’s a good thing I did because my rash was very close to my eye. The ER doctor had an ophthalmologist examine my eye carefully to make sure that the virus had not entered it. Thankfully, it was fine.

Read this post in its entirety:

The New Shingles Vaccine is Good News for People with MS

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