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May 1, 2011 01:31PM
Here is a recent newspaper column about shingles by Dr. Gott. He apparently wrote a column in March with recommendations on who should not receive the vaccine. So here are his readers questions from that column and his response:
DEAR DR. GOTT: I just took the shingles vaccine at a local drugstore. I filled out papers but nowhere did it mention that anyone who had a history of cancer should not take the vaccine. Please advise.
DEAR DR. GOTT: In your recent column, you said that the shingles vaccine should not be given to former cancer patients. I am in remission from large B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I have Wegener's granulomatosis, which although in remission, is still there. The Wegener's is the reason that a shingles vaccine is recommended. I will be having CD19 level blood testing before any vaccination, but with my history, should I still have the vaccine?
DEAR DR. GOTT: I read your recent article regarding the shingles vaccine with much interest. My doctor recommended the vaccine for me; however, I am reluctant to get it. My concern is that I understand the vaccine is formulated with live virus and my white blood count is below normal. Neither my doctor nor a pharmacist was able to comment on this.
DEAR DR. GOTT: I read your article that the shingles vaccine is not right for everyone. I am 65 now and I had ovarian cancer 25 years ago with chemotherapy on weekends once a month for a year. Your article said I shouldn't have the vaccine because I had cancer. Does this hold true for me even though I had cancer so long ago? Also, I can't remember if I had chickenpox. Please advise.
DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a white male, age 58-1/2. I had chickenpox as a child and suffered with a classic case of shingles in February 2010. I received a prescription at a cost of about $300 for 21 pills, seven days' worth, that helped tremendously.
I asked my doctor at that time about the vaccine, and he said he had not studied the vaccine enough yet, as it was new in February 2010. Could you please enlighten me about new information regarding this vaccine or where to go for new information about it because I don't want the discomfort again?
DEAR DR. GOTT: I read your column on the shingles vaccine with interest. However, I am wondering why you stated that those undergoing radiation for cancer or with a history of cancer should not have it.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I also turned 60 that year and asked my oncologist about having the shingles vaccine. He said I could have it as long as I waited one month after I finished chemotherapy. I was undergoing radiation at the time when I had the vaccine and seem to have no issues as a result.
Have I done myself harm or is the vaccine or effective? Also, if the vaccine only lasts six years, should I have another when I am 66 or avoid it owing to my cancer history?
DEAR READERS: Thank you all for writing. When I wrote this article, I acquired the information from reputable sources to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that specifically indicates people with a weakened immune system because of HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system, treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, a history of cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system such as leukemia or lymphoma, and women who are or might be pregnant should not get the vaccine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mirrors this and states conditions such as cancer of the lymph, bone or blood and those with a weakened immune system caused by treatments such as radiation should not be immunized.
Drugs.com indicates if a person has leukemia or lymphoma (or other cancer affecting bone marrow) or a weakened immune system caused by disease or by receiving medication such as steroids or chemotherapy, they should not take the vaccine.
The Mayo Clinic indicates the vaccine isn't recommended if a person has a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDs, lymphoma or leukemia or is receiving immune system-suppressing drugs such as steroids, radiation or chemotherapy and more.
The website www.Zostavax.com indicates that patients should not get the vaccine if they have a weakened immune system.
MedlinePlus indicates a person who has a weakened immune system because of treatment with drugs that affect the immune system such as prolonged use of high-dose steroids, cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system such as leukemia or lymphoma should not get the vaccine.
Therefore, I stand by my original March statement that indicated there are some people who should not receive the vaccine. However, that said, I defer to each reader's oncologist, hematologist or other specialists who may have a different view on the subject. Thank you all for writing.
"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche
2/2007, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-