- What Is It?
- Who Should Get It?
- Potential Side Effects
- Who Should Avoid It?
- Insurance Coverage
The effects of the Shingrix vaccine last for at least four years in most people and may last even longer in some. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you do not need a booster dose after getting the two doses of Shingrix.
What is Shingrix?
If you have had chickenpox in the past, you may get shingles later in life. Chickenpox and shingles are both caused by the same virus (varicella-zoster virus). Once a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the body and can become active years later, causing shingles.
The Shingrix vaccine also provides protection against potential complications of shingles, which can include:
- Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN): PHN is the most common complication of shingles and affects the skin and nerve fibers, causing pain after the rash subsides.
- Eye complications: Shingles in and around the eye can cause eye infections that may result in:
- Pneumonia: If the virus affects the lungs, it can lead to pneumonia.
- Encephalitis: If the virus affects the brain, it can cause a severe, life-threatening inflammation called encephalitis, which may lead to:
Who is a candidate for the shingles vaccine?
Healthy adults aged 50 years and older are candidates for the shingles vaccine Shingrix. There is no age limit, and you can get the Shingrix vaccine even if you have already had shingles, have had the Zostavax vaccine, or do not remember whether you have had chickenpox in the past.
If you have already had shingles, getting the Shingrix can help protect you from the disease coming back. Studies have reported that almost every American aged 40 years and older have more than a 99% chance of having had chickenpox, and people who have had chickenpox are more likely to develop shingles in the future because both are caused by the same virus—the varicella-zoster virus.
After having shingles, there is no duration that you need to wait before getting vaccinated, although you should wait until the rash has completely disappeared. Shringrix is given in 2 doses 2-6 months apart.
How effective is the Shingrix vaccine?
Two doses of Shingrix are more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and PHN. Shingrix is around 85% effective in people over 70 years of age in the first four years after vaccination.
CDC suggests that healthy adults age 50 and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by two to six months.
How safe is the Shingrix vaccine?
As with most vaccines, Shingrix may have side effects, including:
- Soreness in the arm
- Stomach pain
- Muscle pain
Side effects are usually mild and may last for two to three days. No severe side effects for Shingrix have been reported so far.
Who should avoid getting the Shingrix vaccine?
You should not get Shingrix if you:
- Have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the Shingrix vaccine
- Currently have shingles
- Currently are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Tested negative for immunity to varicella-zoster virus (negative antibodies)
- Have a moderate or severe illness with a temperature of 101.3º F
- Have gotten Varivax (chickenpox vaccine) less than eight weeks ago
Is the shingles vaccine covered by insurance?
The shingles vaccine may be covered by insurance depending upon the insurance program:
- Medicare: Medicare Part D covers shingles vaccine expenses, but it depends on the plan. You may need to pay either in part or full and then get it reimbursed. Medicare part B does not cover the vaccine.
- Medicaid: Medicaid may or may not cover the vaccine. You can find out by contacting your insurer.
- Private health insurance: Most private health insurance programs cover the shingles vaccine, but you may need to pay some part of the expenses depending on your plan.
- Vaccine assistance program: Check with the Shingrix manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, if they have a Shingrix vaccine assistance program. Through vaccine assistance programs, people who cannot afford the vaccine can get help in the form of free vaccination.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles Vaccination. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html
Harvard Health Publishing. Should I Get the New Shingles Vaccine? June 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/should-i-get-the-new-shingles-vaccine
Shingles Vaccination: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html
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