Jeffrey Dorn is an amateur gardener, so at first he thought the blisters on his left thigh were caused by fire ant bites. But when the blisters became ``much, much, much'' worse, he stopped applying Calamine lotion and saw his doctor.
He had shingles, a painful disease that attacks mostly people older than 50.
``It was horrendous,'' he said. ``Like someone holding a match to your skin in 48 places, 24 hours a day.''
For Dorn, a 69-year-old retired Xerox exec from Miami, the disease waned after eight weeks of ``industrial-strength'' prescription pain killers. For some, it can become chronic for years, even causing eye problems and, rarely, blindness.
But a new national study says people who get a little-known shingles vaccination can cut their risk of the debilitating disease by 55 percent. It's a Kaiser Permanente review of 300,000 people's medical records published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Zostavax was introduced by Merck & Co., Inc., in 2006, but only about 10 percent of Americans who need it -- those 60 and over -- have been vaccinated, the study says. Most aren't aware it exists. Also, a vaccination costs as much as $219.
Medicare will pay for the vaccine through ts Part D prescription plan. Some private insurers will pay; others won't.
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