In October 2017, the FDA approved a new shingles vaccine, called Shingrix. In January of this year, the CDC officially recommended that adults 50 and over get the new vaccine to prevent this painful, blistering disease instead of the previous one, Zostavax.
Shingles is an infection of an individual nerve and the skin surface that is supplied by the nerve. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox can develop shingles. There are an estimated 1 million cases of shingles each year in the United States, with 1 in 3 people developing shingles during their lifetime.
Healthy adults 50 years and older are recommended to get two does of Shingrix, two to six months apart. The second dose is really important for long-term protection.
If you have already gotten the Zostavax vaccine, you should now get Shingrix as well. Officially, the CDC states that Shingrix is the preferred vaccine over Zostavax. Even if you’ve had shingles, you should get the Shingrix vaccine, since shingles has been known to reoccur.
What’s the difference between Shingrix and Zostavax?
Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and a patient complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in all age groups. Conversely, Zostavax is only 51% effective against shingles and 67% against PHN.
Zostavax contains a live, but weakened version of varicella zoster—the virus that causes shingles and chickenpox.
Shingrix has a dead version of the zoster virus. It also contains an adjuvant which causes your body to produce more antibodies to fight shingles than Zostavax.
The CDC recommends getting the Shingrix vaccine when your chances of contracting shingles rises. Initial studies indicate that its protection remains strong for at least four years, but researches hope it will last much longer because the immune response is stronger.
Who should get the Shingrix vaccine?
The CDC says healthy adults ages 50 and over should get the Shingrix vaccine, even if you’re not sure if you ever had chickenpox.
The CDC also recommends that you get the Shingrix vaccine if you’ve already had Zostavax, because it’s more effective. However, you should wait at least two months after you have Zostavax to get Shingrix.
If you’ve already had shingles, you should get the vaccine. The Shingles can come back after you’ve had it.
Who shouldn’t get Shingrix?
Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredient in Shingrix should not get the vaccines.
Anyone who has tested negative for immunity to the varicella zoster virus. If you test negative, you should get the chickenpox vaccine.
If you currently have shingles, you should wait to get the vaccine. This can prevent a second bout with the disease.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should wait to get Shingrix.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices hasn’t confirmed whether the vaccine is safe for people who have a weakened immune system because of a disease or medicine they take. One worry is that taking drugs that weaken the immune system might make the shingles vaccine less effective. It’s also possible that by stimulating the immune system, Shingrix could worsen certain diseases, like leukemia.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
- Soreness, redness and swelling where you get the shot
- Headache or tired after the shot
- Upset stomach
About 1 out of 10 people said the side effects were severe enough to disrupt their daily life. Yet most felt better within 3 to 5 days.
These side-effects are minimal compared the pain and potentially blistering rash caused by shingles where a typical episode can last from 2-4 weeks.
Once the Shingrix vaccine is available, we’ll let everyone know. Then you can stop by one of our pharmacies and get your shot. We want to keep you healthy!
Sources: CDC, Web MD and Consumer Reports