Lest you have doubts about the value of this vaccine, consider the effects of shingles. It is a painful infection of a single sensory nerve on one side of the body that can occur almost anywhere but most commonly involves the torso or face. Initial symptoms of tingling or burning pain within days develop into a red bumpy rash and very painful blisters.

The blisters heal in a week or two to form crusty scabs that eventually fall off. But for about 15 percent of people, shingles does not end there. Instead, it leaves them with deep, searing nerve pain — a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN — that can last for months or years and has no treatment or cure. More than half the cases of PHN affect people over 60.

Other possible complications of shingles include pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness and encephalitis.

That’s not all. Although most people get shingles only once, it can happen again, especially if you have a weakened immune system, which most everyone does with advancing age.

If you’re lucky you may detect the onset of shingles before the rash appears. Years ago when I went to bed with what had been a daylong gnawing irritation on


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