Dr. Alexander Salerno, head physician at Salerno Medical Associates, works to improve overall health outcomes in underserved populations in East Orange, New Jersey. To that end, Dr. Alexander Salerno leads the Community Healthcare Outreach Program (CHOP), which brings integrated care to elderly patients and those with mental health challenges.
Caused by a virus known as varicella zoster, shingles causes a painful blistering rash that typically presents on one side of the patient’s body. The rash lingers for up to three weeks, though some patients experience lingering severe pain for months or years after the disease clears. This condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and can be so severe as to cause anxiety, depression, and other disruptions to daily life.
Fortunately, the shingles vaccine has proven effective at reducing the risk of varicella zoster infection by up to 70 percent. Effectiveness is highest for patients in their 50s, although those in their 60s may still enjoy a prevention rate of as much as 55 percent. The vaccine’s effectiveness against PHN is similar at approximately 59 to 67 percent.
The vaccine consists of weakened varicella zoster virus, which prompts the production of antibodies when introduced into the patient’s system. Approved for use in the United States since 2006, it has earned the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control for all individuals over age 60.