Dear Doc: I have post-herpetic nerve pain from a shingles infection five years ago. Will the new vaccine be beneficial? — Amy in Oklahoma City

Dear Amy: Yes. Yes. Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. And everyone should consider getting the vaccine at age 50, not 60 like the old vaccine. It’s a two-shot vaccine, with the second one 6 months after the first.

Shingles is awful. And if you had chicken pox, you are at risk.

By the way, this is vaccination season — or at least I think about that when the kids go back to school and it’s approaching flu shot time.

Last year, up to an estimated 43 million people caught influenza, according to the CDC. The result was about 20 million doctor visits and nearly 650,000 hospitalizations. Deaths from influenza were awful, with as many as 61,000 flu fatalities during the 2018-19 season.

So get your flu shot and make sure you’re up to date on the two pneumonia vaccines and the tetanus and pertussis vaccines.

Those who say vaccines don’t work have their head in the ground like an ostrich. Just look at the data. We’ve wiped out rabies, smallpox and diphtheria, and nearly wiped out measles, mumps and chicken pox. And we cut down dramatically on meningitis — all thanks to shots.

So roll up your sleeves and get ’er done.

Hello, Dr. Zorba: I enjoy listening to your show each week — well, many weeks. Recently, you addressed vitamin B12 in vegans. You didn’t mention how important it is for vegans to start B12 supplements. I’m not a vegan but I do require B12. What’s the scoop? — B.G., from Appleton

Dear B.G.: You’re right to bring this up. B12 is important. It keeps your body’s nerves in good shape and it’s essential for red blood cell production.

If you don’t get enough, you can develop pernicious anemia. You’ll become tired, weak and dizzy, have cold hands and feet, a burning sensation in your feet, balance problems and trouble focusing.

B12 only comes from animal sources. No plants make it. So how do strict vegans get it from the food they eat? Insect parts.

I know that sounds disgusting, but when we eat fruits and veggies, especially organic ones, we eat some of the insects that were harvested with the produce. They are a source of B12.

But to be sure you’re getting enough B12, the answer is to take a multivitamin with B12 included or a specific B12 supplement. The typical multivitamin contains 100 micrograms of B12, and the typical supplement contains 1,000 micrograms. Either one is OK — your body will just pee out whatever you don’t need.

As we get older, we often have trouble absorbing B12. First off, you need hydrochloric acid from your stomach to absorb it, so some who are on medications for gastroesophageal reflux disease or ulcers — proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec or histamine 2 blockers such as Zantac — may not be absorbing enough B12.

For those omnivores out there eating foods loaded with B12, know that meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs are all good sources. And if you wonder if you have a B12 deficiency, ask your doctor for a test. There’s an easy way to check for it, especially if you have the symptoms I mentioned above.

My spin: Making sure you get your vitamins is really important, especially if you’re on a vegan diet. This is one place where a vitamin supplement such as a multivitamin plays a role.

Any multivitamin that says it has the minimum daily requirements is fine. Going with a house brand that copies the name brand will save you money so you can buy fresh veggies, a great source of wellness. Stay well.

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This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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