The herpes zoster (shingles) vaccination is now recommended for people older than 60 years. This full recommendation, issued by the CDC in May (MMWR. 2008;57[RR-5]:1-30), replaces a provisional recommendation made in 2006 by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices after the vaccine was licensed by the FDA.

According to the CDC’s recommendation, a single dose of live attenuated zoster vaccine (Zostavax) should be given to all patients older than 60 years of age, even if they’ve had a case of shingles. Anyone who has had chickenpox (95% of adults) is at risk for developing this serious condition, but the risk increases starting around age 50 and is highest in the elderly. Ultimately, approximately one third of the U.S. population is afflicted.

Family history also appears to play a role in the development of shingles. In a recent study of 504 patients treated for the condition, these individuals were 4.35 times more likely to have a first-degree relative and 4.27 times more likely to have another relative with a history of shingles than were members of a control group (Arch Dermatol. 2008;144:603-608).

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