The State of Alaska has provided a one-time allocation of shingles vaccine (Zostavax) to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka and Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau. Since the vaccine is provided by the state and not purchased by SEARHC, we need to follow state guidelines for use. Although this is limiting, many will still qualify and we would like to offer it to those who meet state criteria.
For those ineligible for state vaccine, there are other options such as obtaining a prescription from your provider or public health. Shingles vaccine is very fragile and must be maintained within strict guidelines which makes shipping difficult to outlying communities. If you live in one of the villages and would like shingles vaccine, please contact your local clinic.
Who can get the shingles vaccine?
Anyone 60 years of age and older that is uninsured, has only Medicare Parts A and B, or AlaskaCare State of Alaska retirees 64 and under may receive state supplied vaccine in this case.
Although the vaccine is licensed by the FDA for use in anyone 50 years and older, we are required to use it in patients 60 years and older according to the guidelines conditional for use of the vaccine.
Who can’t get the shingles vaccine?
Shingles vaccine should not be used if you have a severe allergy to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or other components of the vaccine.
If you have a weakened immune system from illness such as leukemia or lymphoma, medications that affect the immune system such as steroids or chemotherapy, or are undergoing cancer or radiation treatment, shingles vaccine is not recommended. Pregnant women should not receive shingles vaccine.
How effective is the shingles vaccine?
Studies indicate the vaccine reduces the likelihood of getting shingles by about half (51%). The risk of post herpetic neuralgia, or the nerve pain that can follow shingles, is reported to be reduced by 67%. The effects of shingles tend to be worse in age groups over 60 years old.
I’ve already had shingles. Does that mean I shouldn’t get the vaccine?
Even if you have had shingles, you may get the vaccine. It may help prevent you from getting shingles again, although most people typically have shingles only once. If you have active shingles, waiting until the rash has disappeared is recommended.
I’m not sure if I have had chicken pox. Does that mean I can’t get shingles?
If you are over 40 years old, studies indicate 99% of Americans have had chicken pox, whether or not you remember. Consequently you may benefit from getting shingles vaccine.
Is shingles contagious?
You cannot give shingles to someone. However, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox (varicella). Contact with uncovered lesions can transmit the virus that causes chicken pox to persons who have never had chicken pox or are not immunized against chicken pox. Keeping shingles lesions covered can prevent contact that may cause chicken pox. Good hand washing practices prevent the spread of shingles virus and many other illnesses.
How do I get the shingles vaccine?
You may request a nurse appointment in the MEH Outpatient Department in Sitka at 966-8318 or Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau at 463-6608. Please make sure criteria for obtaining the vaccine are met: 60 years or older, uninsured, or Medicare Parts A & B, or Alaska Care State of Alaska retiree. If you have insurance, but it does not cover the cost of the vaccine, please call your local public health provider to see if you may receive zoster vaccine there. If you have insurance which covers the cost of the vaccine, your provider can write a prescription if it is appropriate for you.
How do I get shingles vaccine if I live outside of Sitka or Juneau?
Public health nurses occasionally bring vaccine with them on their visits to villages. If you are interested in receiving shingles vaccines and live in an outlying community, please contact your local provider.
If you have questions regarding the shingles vaccine or general vaccination questions, please call Laurie Hood, RN, at 966-8738.