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Q:

Can a varicella titer be drawn to decide if the shingles vaccine is necessary?

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Since the vaccine is so expensive, I would like to avoid it if my titer, or antibody level, is high enough. A. The varicella virus is obtained either as a vaccine or during a chicken pox outbreak. It is thought that a decrease in immune defenses causes the reactivation of the varicella virus in the body and results in shingles. Our bodies fight infection in multiple ways. One way is through the development of antibodies to fight off the infection. Antibodies against most infections can be measured. This is called a titer. Another way of fighting infection is through cell-mediated immunity. This is where special defense cells attack other cells that express abnormal proteins from viruses and bacteria. Cell-mediated immunity is what is responsible for keeping the varicella virus in check. While lessened immunity to varicella is thought to be the cause for reactivation, it turns out that titer levels are not decreased in those with shingles. The weakened immunity that allows a shingles ... more
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