The National Advisor Committee on Immunization, a division of the Public Health Agency of Canada strongly recommends that people over the age of 60 years be immunized with the Zostavax vaccine. They also strongly recommended that people over the age of 65 years be immunized with both the Zostavax and Pneumovax 23 vaccines.
The first vaccine is the Herpes Zoster (Shingles) vaccine, commonly known as Zostavax. This vaccine helps reduce the incidence of shingles and post herpetic neuralgia (nerve pain). Shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus (which remains dormant in your spinal cord) resulting in a painful rash. Post herpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles where the pain persists long after the rash has resolved.
It is important to know that the overall vaccine efficacy or effectiveness was 51.3% for shingles incidence and 66.5% for post herpetic neuralgia in a large trial of patients 60 years of age and older. This means that there are people who receive the vaccine that will still get shingles but will likely still benefit from a reduction in its severity and/or duration.
Zostavax is recommended for use in individuals 60 years of age and older; however the vaccine may be used in adults aged 50 to 59 years of age. The incidence and severity of shingles begins to increase with age after 50 years. While all adults aged 50 and older receive some benefit, the duration of protection is unknown beyond 7 years, and it is uncertain whether vaccination in this age group will provide ongoing protection at older ages when the incidence of shingles is higher. Unfortunately, the vaccine is not covered by OHIP and costs about $ 183.63. Luckily, many insurance plans will cover the cost of this vaccine.
The second vaccine recommended by The National Advisor Committee on Immunization is the Pneumococcal 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine, commonly known as Pneumovax 23 or Pneumo 23. This vaccine helps to protect you against S. pneumoniae which is a common cause of invasive disease, such as pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis. The fatality rate of bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia is 5% to 7% and is higher among elderly persons. This vaccine is recommended for use in individuals over 65 years of age and is covered by OHIP.
If you have any questions or are interested in getting either vaccine please contact your family doctor.