I was getting off the elevator at the hospital the other day, and a cardiologist greeted me with the phrase every ID doctor in the world will instantly recognize:
Can I ask you a quick question?
It was actually a series of questions, and, as is often the case, it wasn’t so “quick”. But I was happy to help.
Her sister — age 57, living in Virginia — had just been diagnosed with ophthalmic zoster, and was having a very rough time of it. Lots of pain, swelling, and of even greater concern, corneal involvement with markedly reduced vision.
The problem, of course, is that there’s only so much that antiviral therapy can do once shingles is diagnosed. Far better, of course, is to prevent it in the first place.
Then the next day the FDA approved the zoster vaccine for people aged 50-59, reducing the age threshold by 10 years.
The reasons for approval are plain enough. Around 200,000 people this age get shingles each year in the United States, and the vaccine reduces the risk by 70%. So it’s even more effective in this young patient population (and I chose that adjective intentionally, ahem) than in those for whom it was originally approved.
Let’s hope the distribution and cost issues — which are substantial — are resolved soon, as this is one adult vaccine I most heartily endorse.