Shingrix more than 90 percent effective and recommended even if you’ve had chickenpox or an older shingles vaccine.
If you’re age 50 or older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends you receive Shingrix, a new shingles vaccine that is more than 90 percent effective.
The chickenpox virus causes shingles. Many adults had chickenpox as a child, which means the virus is inactive in their body. However, it can become active and cause shingles.
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, affects around 1 million people in the United States each year. The risk of developing it grows with age.
People who haven’t had chickenpox or haven’t been vaccinated against chickenpox, such as infants, can get chickenpox if they’re around someone with shingles. Such was the case when Hamilton creator and Moana composer Lin-Manuel Miranda developed shingles and had to be quarantined from his 8-week-old son.
Shingles pain and Shingrix side effects
If you know anyone who has had shingles, you know it’s painful. It causes tingling or burning pain that then becomes a rash and painful blisters. Once the blisters heal, around 15 percent of people still experience nerve pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. This has no treatment and can last for years. More rarely, shingles can cause pneumonia, hearing issues, blindness and encephalitis.
“I recommend all adults age 50 and over talk to their physician about getting vaccinated,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., physician with Norton Infectious Disease Specialists and system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare. “It’s remarkable that this new vaccine has been shown to be so effective.”
The CDC recommends that healthy adults age 50 and older get two doses of Shingrix, two to six months apart, even if you have had shingles in the past, received a shingles vaccine in the past or are not sure whether you had chickenpox.
About one out of six people who got Shingrix had side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities, according to the CDC. Side effects were more common in younger people.
“There are a few potential side effects of Shingrix, including pain where you received the shot,” Dr. Schulz said. “You may also get a headache, fever or upset stomach, but those side effects are far less painful than getting shingles.”
Want the new shingles vaccine?
Talk with your primary care provider about getting Shingrix.