New Vaccine to Prevent Shingles
by Anne Pelc, Pharm D
Each of us likely knows someone who has had the shingles, have seen the rash, have heard of the shingles pain that lasts long after the shingles rash has healed, or has personally had the disease. Shingles results from the reactivation of the same virus that causes the chicken pox. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that can help protect from getting the shingles. The most recent vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in 2017 by the FDA. Research has found it to be 97 percent effective in preventing shingles for people 50-69 years old; in adults 70 years and older it is 91 percent effective.
Shingrix is approved for adults 50 years and older. Even people who have had shingles in the past should receive Shingrix as the vaccine can prevent future shingles illnesses. Those who believe they never had chicken pox should also be vaccinated as it is possible that a very mild case may not be remembered. Also, some people have had the first shingles vaccine, called Zostavax. It is recommended that those people be vaccinated again as Shingrix is more effective than Zostavax in preventing shingles.
Those who should not receive the Shingrix vaccine are:
- People who are allergic to any of the components of the vaccine or those who had an allergic reaction to the first dose of Shingrix
- People who currently have the shingles
- Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers
- People who test negative to the varicella virus, the virus that causes chicken pox.
When a person receives the Shingrix vaccine, it is administered as an injection (or shot) in the upper arm. It requires two doses for the most effective protection. There is an initial dose, then a second dose two to six months later. Shingrix can be given in your primary care provider's office or at some retail pharmacies.
As with any medication, there are side effects that can occur. Most common is the sore arm that varies from mild to moderate pain and may also have some redness and swelling at the site where the shot was given. Other side effects include feeling very tired, having muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, or stomach pain. These symptoms go away in two to three days and can be treated by taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
The cost of Shingrix is covered by Medicare Part D and most insurances. The amount a person pays depends on the specific plan as well as the copays or deductibles in the plan. To check the amount a person may have to pay, call the customer service number on the insurance card and ask about Shingrix coverage.
Serious complications can result from having the shingles, including post herpetic neuralgia ("shingles pain"), skin infections, eye complications, and meningitis. Receiving the Shingrix vaccine can significantly reduce the chances of having the shingles and suffering from the rash and pain as well as worrying about potential complications. If you have more questions, you can talk to your primary health care provider or retail pharmacist. You can also speak to our experts at Covenant Clinic.