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Recombinant Zoster Shingles Vaccine: Shingrix

by Mitch Markovich | Mar 22, 2018

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime.  Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.  When first infected with the varicella-zoster virus, usually as a child, a person gets chickenpox.  The virus stays dormant in the body in the roots of nerves and can reactivate and cause shingles at any age but the risk goes up as we grow older.  Shingles causes a rash and can cause pain - which for some can be excruciating.  The pain is often times prolonged lasting for weeks and sometimes even months.  You can’t catch shingles from another person.  However, a person who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine could get chickenpox from someone with shingles.

Common sites for shingles rash

The old vaccine, Zostavax, which has been around since 2006 was recommended for anyone over 60 years of age to be given as a single dose.  It was a live attenuated weakened form of the chickenpox virus.  It was around 50% effective in providing protection against the rash and 75% to 80% effective in protecting against prolonged pain.  Shingrix, the new vaccine, is made from one of the chickenpox virus proteins and mixed with two adjuvant substances which help boost the immune response.  Shingrix is around 80% to 95% effective at preventing rash and about 95% effective in preventing pain and prolonged pain.  Zostavax, the old vaccine, may still be used to prevent shingles in certain cases for healthy adults 60 years and older.  

The CDC recommends the new vaccine, Shingrix, be given to healthy adults staring at 50 years of age.  The new vaccine is give in two doses.  The second dose of Shingrix should be given 2 to 6 months after the first dose.  The new preferred vaccine is recommended even if you had shingles in the past, received the old Zostavax vaccine, or if you are not sure you had chickenpox.  There is no maximum age for getting the new shingles vaccine.

If you need help finding where to go for vaccinations in your area, including the new shingles vaccine or any other vaccines, please visit:  https://vaccinefinder.org/.

The cost of the new Shingrix vaccine is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, most health insurance providers and by Samish Purchased and Referred Care.    

For more information about the new shingles vaccine, please visit:  https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/hcp/shingrix/recommendations.html.

2018 Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule – Easy Read:  Find out what immunizations you may need based on your age and/or health conditions:  https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-schedule-easy-read.pdf.

The information in this report has been compiled from the CDC and various other relevant government agencies and is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional health-care provider.