Push made for shingles vaccine

Vaccine approved by FDA for people 50 and older


It's estimated that one in three Americans will develop a potentially debilitating condition in their lifetime, and the push is on to get people vaccinated. Government guidelines recommend the shingles vaccine for anyone 60 and older, but the FDA has approved the vaccine for people 50 and older.

For over a decade, Terry Bradshaw was the face of pro football, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Now, he's putting himself on the line -- speaking out about shingles.

In commercials for pharmaceutical giant  Merck, Bradshaw urges people to get the shingles vaccine.

"If you play football for a long time like I did, you're going to learn about pain, but it is nothing like the pain that shingles causes," Bradshaw says in the commercial. "Take it from a guy who's been tackled by shingles please talk to your doctor or pharmacist."

At about $250 a shot, the vaccine isn't cheap. And, some question it's benefit and long term safety.

"For me, it's measuring the risk reward, and in this case, I feel like the vaccine is so new that we might find out down the road that the people who got the vaccine did develop some sort of health issue," said Pharmacist David Foreman.

Shingles  is a painful rash brought on by the same virus that causes chicken pox. The  virus can lie dormant in the nerves of the spinal cord and back of the head until something causes it to reactivate.

"As you get older, you lose the immunity to the virus -- a certain kind of immunity that keeps the virus in check -- and with age, that immunity wanes," explained Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Kenneth Ratzan.

Ratzan says in most cases, the virus goes away in a couple of week, but some can experience pain for months.

"That's the reason why shingles can be a debilitating disease, and it makes sense to try and prevent it with the shingles vaccine," he said.

 The live vaccine, which is 15 times stronger than the chicken pox virus, is 50 percent effective in preventing the disease.

The vaccine does prevent half of the cases, and number two, it definitely reduces the severity of the shingles attack if you do get it - and the frequency of this post shingles pain," Ratzan said.

Kenneth Penn was one of the rare people who developed shingles not once, but twice. That's why he's not taking any chances this time. He's getting vaccinated.

"I was in so much pain," he said. "I don't want it again, ever."

There are anti-viral medications, even topical treatments,.which if given in the early stages of the disease, can limit the duration as well as the pain. But doctors say your best bet, even though it's not perfect, is still the vaccine.

Read more about the shingles vaccine from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.