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Informer: Shingles vaccine available at various places

Last Modified: Saturday, December 08, 2012 4:02 PM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

Where can you get a shingles vaccine? My doctor tells me I can get it at a drugstore, but due to my prescription plan, I have to get my prescriptions at a pharmacy that isn’t certified to give the vaccine. Can you help?

Sure can.

According to a database maintained by Merck, maker of the vaccine, called Zostavax, the shot is available at area Walgreens, Kroger, Albertsons and Rite Aid pharmacies, along with Kmart and Fred’s Pharmacy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people age 60 and older should receive the vaccine — a one-time shot that can prevent an outbreak of shingles, which is caused by the virus that causes chickenpox.

The virus, called varicella zoster, lies dormant in the nervous systems of people who have had chickenpox and is later reactivated, causing a painful rash.

People who have shingles can pass the virus along to others, who — if they haven’t already had it — can develop chickenpox. But shingles itself isn’t contagious.

“A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts from 2 to 4 weeks,” reads a CDC fact sheet. “Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach.”

The name “shingles” comes from “cingulum,” the Latin for “belt” — a reference to the rash’s characteristic banding of the chest. The virus’s scientific name joins the Latin “varicella,” or “little pox,” with the Greek “zoster,” or “belt” or “girdle.”

People who shouldn’t receive the vaccine, according to the CDC:

Those who’ve had “a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine.”

People with immune systems weakened by disease, drug treatment, or radiation and chemotherapy.

Pregnant women.

Online: www.zostavax.com; www.cdc.gov/shingles/index.html.


Rare earth elements not all that rare

Could you tell me where “rare earth” is found and how much it’s worth?

“Rare earth” generally refers to the 15 elements in the lanthanide series — set off in a separate row beneath the periodic table — and the elements scandium and yttrium.

“Rare earths are moderately abundant in the earth’s crust, some even more abundant than copper, lead, gold, and platinum,” reads a Congressional Research Service report from June. “While some are more abundant than many other minerals, most REEs are not concentrated enough to make them easily exploitable economically.”

According a U.S. Geological Survey fact sheet cited in the report, thulium and lutetium — the two least abundant of the elements — “are nearly 200 times more common than gold.” Rare earth elements are found principally in the minerals bastnasite, loparite and monazite.

More than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth elements come from ore deposits in China. But mines in the U.S. and Australia hope to capture large sectors of the market, whose products have made the miniaturization of electronic devices possible.

Other producing states include India, Brazil, and Russia and other former Soviet Republics.

Rare earth prices depend on several factors, including supply, demand and purity. A suspension of exports by China in 2010 led to high prices, but they’ve since dropped — though some rare earth compounds still fetch several thousand dollars per kilogram.

Among the products that contain rare earth compounds: hybrid car batteries; catalytic converters; smartphone, TV and computer screens; compact fluorescent bulbs; and wind turbines.

Online: http://periodic.lanl.gov/index.shtml; www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41347.pdf.

• • •

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com

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