About The Shingles Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults over the age of 50 get the shingles vaccine because it’s the only way to protect against the disease and its associated side effects. The risk of getting shingles increases as you age or if you have a weakened immune system. Always consult your doctor to find out if the shingles vaccine is right for you.
The CDC-recommended vaccine, Shingrix, is a recombinant zoster vaccine that has two doses administered within six months of each other. It’s classified as a Tier 3 drug by most insurance companies, which means it’s a brand-name pharmaceutical with a higher copayment than a Tier 1 or 2 drug.
Use the Shingrix vaccine locator to find where the shingles vaccine is being offered, and check with your Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage provider to see which locations give you the lowest price.
Is The Shingles Shot Free For Seniors
The shingles vaccine is not free for all seniors, and how much you pay depends on your Medicare Part D plan or your Medicare Advantage prescription drug benefits. Seniors who don’t have a prescription drug plan will have to pay full price for the shingles vaccine or use a cost-saving method to get the vaccine at a discounted price.
What Are The Side Effects
The shingles vaccines are very safe.
Common side effects to the vaccines include headache as well as soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Itching and a rash may also occur after getting Zostavax® II. Other reactions that may occur after getting Shingrix® include fever, muscle soreness, fatigue, shivering, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. The chance of true anaphylaxis is about 1 in 1 million vaccine doses. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Learn more about anaphylaxis on our vaccine side effects page.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
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When Should You Get Vaccinated Against Shingles
Most people should be vaccinated against shingles at ages 50 and over. People ages 18 and over who have health conditions or take medications that can weaken the immune system should consider getting the shingles vaccine before age 50.
For people receiving the vaccine at ages 50 and over, there is no particular time and no maximum age when you should be vaccinated.
Vaccination against shingles can be done on its own or alongside other vaccinations, like for the flu or pneumonia. Generally, the vaccine is given in two doses, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first dose.
For people who are receiving the shingles vaccine because of an immune deficiency, the second dose can be given sooner: 1 to 2 months after the first dose.
In this case, if possible, shingles vaccination should be timed with your immune response. This could mean waiting until after a flare-up of your condition has subsided or getting the vaccine before you receive certain immune-suppressing medications.
7 years and remains effective afterward.
Speak with a doctor about how often you should be vaccinated for shingles based on your specific immune system and health concerns.
The shingles vaccine that is currently available in the United States was introduced in 2017, so you may have questions about it. Below are answers to some of the most common questions.
Who Should Not Get Shingrix
You should not get Shingrix if you:
- Have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix.
- Currently have shingles.
- Currently are pregnant. Women who are pregnant should wait to get Shingrix.
If you have a minor illness, such as a cold, you may get Shingrix. But if you have a moderate or severe illness, with or without fever, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the vaccine.
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Don’t Overpay: Advice For Medicare Patients
Three out of four Americans eligible for the shingles vaccination still havent gotten it, according to the CDC. Not surprisingly, a 2015 report from the National Vaccine Program found that one of the main reasons adults skip recommended vaccines is the cost.
If youve been putting off getting your shingles shot because you were quoted a high price, check your Part D plan. You may be able to get it for less.
Confusion about insurance coverage for the vaccine can sometimes result in patients paying more than they should, Avitzur says.
Dont delay, as the consequences of shingles can be devastating, advises Avitzur, a neurologist who has seen firsthand the painful effects of lingering nerve damage.
Your best bet may be to get the shot at a pharmacy in your drug plans network. Youll still need to get a prescription from your doctor, but the pharmacy will bill your insurance company and youll pay the lowest out-of-pocket costs available under your plan.
If you would like to get vaccinated at your doctors office, ask up front about the cost. Does your doctor charge more to administer the shot than your plan allows? If so, youll be on the hook for the difference. Also see whether the office will bill your Part D or Medicare Advantage plan directly or work with a pharmacy in your network to handle the billing.
How Long After Ive Received The Shingles Vaccine Am I Contagious
With the currently authorized shingles vaccine, Shingrix, you wont be contagious. The old vaccine, Zostavax, used a weakened form of the live varicella-zoster virus. Therefore, people worried about spreading the disease to the people around them.
Shingrix doesnt use a live version of the varicella-zoster virus. It is inactivated, which means it uses a dead version of the virus. Therefore, you have no risk of transmitting the disease to anyone.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
No one likes to get shots, especially for something youve already been vaccinated for. But the newer version of the shingles vaccine is one youll want to offer up your arm for. The Shingrix vaccine is more than 90% effective at helping you prevent shingles. Since most of us have had chickenpox in the past, the shingles vaccine is an easy way to prevent the dormant chickenpox virus from creeping up and hitting you again with shingles.
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What Shingles Vaccines Are Available
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there are 2 vaccines licensed and recommended to prevent shingles in the U.S.: Shingrix and Zostavax.2 The CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get 2 doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months, to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease.3
Why Do You Need The Shingles Vaccine
In a word: pain. Shingles commonly appears as a rash, usually across one side of your chest, abdomen or face. What starts as itching or tingling becomes an extremely painful band of blisters. These usually scab over in seven to 10 days and clear up in two to four weeks.4
Shingles is most common among people over the age of 50, so the Centers for Disease Controls recommends the vaccine for anyone over that age.
People with a weak immune system are at even higher risk. Your immunity may be weakened if you:5
- Are under extreme stress.
Shingles must be active, meaning in the blister phase, to be contagious. You cannot transmit the virus before the blisters appear, nor once they crust over.6 Even if the virus is active, the risk of spreading VZV is low if you keep the shingles rash covered.7
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Cdc Shingles Vaccine Recommendations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Shingrix vaccination for everyone 50 years and older and those 19 years and older who have weakened immune systemseven if you have already had shingles, if you had another type of shingles vaccine, and if you dont know whether or not youve had chickenpox in the past.
You should not get the vaccine if you have a severe allergy to any of the components, currently have shingles, or you have lab tests that definitively show that you do not have antibodies against the varicella-zoster virus. In that case, you may be better off getting the varicella vaccine instead. Also, those who are pregnant should consider delaying vaccination with Shingrix until after delivery.
When Should I Get The Second Dose
The CDC recommends that adults ages 50 and older get a second dose of Shingrix two to six months after their first dose. If youve waited longer than six months since your first dose of Shingrix, its safe to get a second dose right away. Most people dont need to repeat the first dose.
Some immunocompromised adults may need a second dose within one to two months. If you have a disease or are taking medication that affects your immune system, talk to your healthcare provider about the best timeline for your two doses of the shingles vaccine.
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How Does Your Medicare Deductible Affect Your Vaccine Costs
The deductible amount of your Medicare plan affects how much you pay out of pocket before your insurer starts contributing to the cost of your prescription drugs. Depending on how many medications you take, the deductible could affect how much you spend on the vaccine.
Below, we’ll compare how much you’d pay for the shingles vaccine on two plans with different deductibles. In this situation, the person with the MedicareRx Walgreens plan pays less overall, even though they’re paying full price for the shingles vaccine.
Scenario: Shingrix is the only medication needed during the policy
|AARP MedicareRx Walgreens|
|Cost of two doses of Shingrix vaccine||$160 each, for a total of $320, because the deductible hasn’t been met||$45 copay each, for a total of $90|
|Total annual cost of premiums and shingles vaccine||$788||$1,122|
In the example above, the AARP MedicareRx Walgreens prescription drug plan has a $455 deductible for Tier 3 drugs like the shingles vaccine. That means if you haven’t already met your deductible, you would pay full price for the vaccine, which would be $320 for two doses. The plan costs $38.60 per month for someone living in Charlotte, N.C. If the shingles vaccine is the only Tier 3, 4, or 5 drug needed during the policy year, your total annual spending would be $788.
Who Should And Shouldnt Get The Vaccine
Shingrix is approved for all adults with normal immune systems who are 50 years old or older. This is 10 years younger than the recommendation for the older vaccine Zostavax, which marks a major change in vaccination practices and provides added protection against shingles earlier in life.
If you have already been vaccinated against shingles with Zostavax, dont worry we recommend you be revaccinated with the new Shingrix vaccine to give you added protection. There should be at least two months between the time you received Zostavax and the time you receive Shingrix.
If you have already had shingles, you arent immune from getting it again! Shingles can occur more than once in a lifetime and already having the infection does not protect you against future infections. We recommend you also be vaccinated with Shingrix if you have a healthy immune system. If you recently recovered from shingles, we recommend you wait until your rash and symptoms have resolved before getting the vaccine.
If you do not have a normal immune system , then we recommend you speak with your primary care provider to see if the shingles vaccination is right for you. If you are one of the rare few adults who has never had chicken pox, then we recommend you talk with your provider about getting the varicella vaccination instead.
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New Shingles Vaccine Changes Recommendations For Adults
The pain associated with shingles can be unbearable. It can last for months and be so debilitating that even routine tasks become too difficult to bear. The single dose Zostavax® vaccine had been recommended since 2006, and it is about 50 percent effective at protecting against a shingles rash and about 75-80 percent effective at protecting against pain.
Fortunately, a new shingles vaccine, called Shingrix®, offers improved protection not only from developing the disease, but also against the severe pain associated with shingles. Shingrix is 95 percent effective at protecting against both the rash and associated pain. It is given as two doses separated by two to six months.
In this video, Dr. Offit discusses the differences between the two shingles vaccines and updated recommendations for adults. These include getting the vaccine at 50 years of age instead of 60 and being revaccinated if youve previously received the older version .
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What Are The Complications Of Shingles
The most common and lasting complication of shingles is nerve pain, whats called postherpetic neuralgia , which can last for months or even years, long after the rash has cleared up. According to the CDC, between 10% and 18% of people whove had shingles will develop PHN.
PHN is a stabbing or throbbing pain or weakness where the shingles rash had been. The risk increases with age and the pain lasts longer and is more severe than in younger people.8
In rare cases, shingles can develop into pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness and brain inflammation.9 Only 1% to 4% of people with shingles are hospitalized for complications, though these are typically older adults and people whose immune systems are weak or suppressed, and fewer than 100 people die from shingles each year.10
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Should I Get The New Shingles Vaccine
In general, PartnerMD strongly recommends the Shingrix vaccine for adults aged 50 and older. The Shingrix vaccine may or may not be recommended for you depending on how recently you received the Zostavax® vaccine and your personal health factors. Talk to your doctor to help you determine the best timing for your vaccination.
A Look Back At Varicella
Even though chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, the conditions have different vaccines. The chickenpox vaccine made its debut in 1995, but a shingles vaccine didnt hit the market until about a decade later. The first shingles vaccine was Zostavax in 2006. However, this vaccine was taken off the market in 2020, following the release of another vaccine, called Shingrix, in 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that anyone who received Zostavax be revaccinated with Shingrix.
Three groups of people absolutely should not receive the shingles vaccine. These are people who:
- currently have shingles
- previously had an allergic reaction to any components of the Shingrix vaccine
If you are pregnant or currently have shingles, its best to wait to get vaccinated until you are no longer pregnant or your shingles case clears up.
It may be difficult to know if you are allergic to any part of the vaccine, so speak with a doctor about any medication allergies you may have or previous reactions you experienced after vaccinations.
Most of the side effects of the shingles vaccine are limited and short-acting. Side effects usually appear in the first few days after your first or second dose of the vaccine and disappear within a few days.
Common side effects include things like:
- arm soreness or pain where the vaccine was injected
- swelling or redness at the injection site
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When Should I See A Doctor Because Of The Side Effects I Experience From Shingrix
Shingrix causes a strong response in your immune system, so it may produce short-term side effects. These side effects can be uncomfortable, but they are expected and usually go away on their own in 2 or 3 days. You may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Contact your healthcare provider if the symptoms are not improving or if they are getting worse.
In clinical trials, Shingrix was not associated with serious adverse events. In fact, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. For example, for every 1 million doses of a vaccine given, only one or two people might have a severe allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction happen within minutes or hours after vaccination and include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness. If you experience these or any other life-threatening symptoms, see a doctor right away.
What Happens When You Get The Vaccine
As mentioned above, there is one option for the shingles vaccine: Shingrix.
Shingrix, which contains no live virus, is a two-dose vaccine series given in the muscle of the upper arm. The second shot is given two to six months after the first. In clinical trials, it was effective in nearly 97% of adults in their 50s over 97% effective for people in their 60s and over 91% effective for those aged 70 and above. It remains at near 85% effectiveness in all four years following vaccination.18
Shingrix is recommended if youre age 50 or older and have no severe immune problems.19
Effectiveness does come with a cost: In studies, seven in 10 people experienced pain from the Shingrix vaccine, and nearly half have muscle pain or fatigue and some had headaches, shivering, fever and nausea.20 21The CDC suggests avoiding strenuous activities for two to three days after getting either Shingrix shot.
If have previously received Zostavax, you can consider getting Shingrix. The CDC says Shingrix was safe and immunogenic when given five years or later after Zostavax. The agency adds there is no data or theoretical concerns that Shingrix would be any less effective if given sooner. 21
Zostavax was discontinued in 2020 by Merck and is no longer available in the United States.
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