WILKES-BARRE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Even before the pandemic, at least three of every four adults had fallen behind on recommended immunizations and it’s not just vaccines for whooping cough, tetanus and seasonal flu that may have been missed.
The shingles vaccine was also overlooked by many adults who are recommended to get the shot. A woman who suffered from shingles shared her experience with me as a cautionary tale for others.
“As far as pain, it’s right up there with childbirth, I’ll tell you,” said Kathlyn, who is a shingles vaccine advocate.
Kathlyn, a 54-year-old woman who says two years ago she noticed what looked like a blemish or spider bite on her nose. But then it began to blister.
“Well that blister started to spread across my face to multiples and by the following morning it had reached my eye and my eye was swollen shut,” said Kathlyn.
A doctor quickly diagnosed what it really was: shingles. The rash disease is a result of the herpes zoster virus, the same virus which causes chickenpox. It can remain dormant in a person for decades before it reactivates, typically striking every one in three people 50 and older.
“Imagine having a painful condition every moment of the day that can last for weeks if not months and sometimes years. That is the type of things that can happen from shingles,” said vaccine researcher with GSK Len Friedland, MD.
The severe nerve pain can linger long after the shingles rash disappears and it can often leave behind a permanent reminder with the infected person.
“Even to this day, I have scarring and I have some little twinges around my eye occasionally,” said Kathlyn.
She says shingles were something she never had on her personal health radar.
“I wish I was able to talk to my doctor to know that there is a way to prevent going through this experience,” said Kathlyn.
That ‘something’ is the shingles vaccine, a two-shot dose spread out over several weeks.
“So, everybody over the age of 50 should ask their doctor, their pharmacist about the shingles and the vaccine to protect against shingles and then go ahead and make a plan, get that scheduled along with all the other adult vaccines that are recommended,” said Dr. Friedland.
Kathlyn has since received the shingles vaccine.
“Because it stays in your system and I was told that it could come back so I did not want to go through that ever again,” said Kathlyn.
Shingles can strike younger than 50. It did this year for 37-year-old Ali Fedotowski, a former contestant on the reality show, “The Bachelorette”.