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Shingles shot's value is uncertain

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9:50am, September 20, 2006

The cost-effectiveness of a new vaccine against shingles remains uncertain, according to a new study. So, health policy makers don't have enough information to recommend for or against routine use of the shot, say the researchers.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, develops when a person previously infected with chickenpox experiences a reactivation of the dormant virus. Nationwide, shingles annually affects 300,000 to 600,000 people. People usually recover within a month, but some later experience flare-ups of severe pain.

Zostavax, a vaccine made by Merck & Co. of Whitehouse Station, N.J., and given to people who haven't had shingles, lessens the incidence and severity of symptoms in people age 60 and older (SN: 6/4/05, p. 358: Available to subscribers at Vaccine Gains: Shot protects seniors from shingles flare-ups). The government approved the vaccine's sale in May, and its list price is about $150.

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