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Shingles Vaccine Underused

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 3:39pm

A vaccine to prevent shingles has been around since 2006, yet a majority of adults haven't gotten it.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox and it can lie dormant in the body for years before rearing its ugly head in adulthood.

It's extremely painful and in severe cases can lead to lasting nerve damage.

Now a new study from Southern California Kaiser Permanente shows the shingles vaccine can cut the risk of the disease by more than half.

"We're confident that we will be able to cut down on the long-term nerve damage that a patient may have and that's very exciting," says Dr. Juanita Watts.

Watts is a physician with Kaiser Permanente.

She says only about 11-percent of adults have gotten the vaccine even though it's recommended for all healthy people over age 60.

Dr. Watts says the new study shows the vaccine could be made available to a broader pool of patients safely.

About one million people in the United States develop shingles each year.

The vaccine hasn't been on the market long enough to determine how long it's effective.

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