New Shingles Vaccine: 90% Effective at Preventing Shingles

Jay Harold wrote a post about Shingles in 2016 because a friend asked for information on the disease. She had visited the Emergency Room at a local hospital because of the intense pain Shingles produced and wanted to know how to stop the pain.

Jay Harold will provide an update on Shingles Disease with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This update includes info about a new Shingles Vaccine.

What is Shingles?

Shingles1 is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Some people describe the pain as an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. This long-lasting pain is called postherpetic neuralgia2 (PHN), and it is the most common complication of shingles. Your risk of getting shingles and PHN increases as you get older.

A new shingles vaccine called Shingrix was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of Shingrix, 2 to 6 months apart. Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine, over Zostavax®, a shingles vaccine in use since 20063.

What Everyone Should Know about Shingles Vaccine4 (Shingrix)

One of the Recommended Vaccines by Disease

Shingles vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of shingles. CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix®, separated by 2 to 6 months, to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease. Your doctor or pharmacist can give you Shingrix as a shot in your upper arm.

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Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN. Two doses of Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN. Protection stays above 85% for at least the first four years after you get vaccinated.

Who Should Get Shingrix?

Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:

  • had shingles
  • received Zostavax
  • are not sure if you had chickenpox

There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.

If you had shingles in the past, you could get Shingrix to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally, you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.

New Shingles Vaccine: 90% Effective at Preventing Shingles

You can get Shingrix whether or not you remember having had chickenpox in the past. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans 40 years and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember having the disease. Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus (varicella zoster virus). After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.

If you had Zostavax in the recent past, you should wait at least eight weeks before getting Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.

Shingrix is available in doctor’s offices and pharmacies. To find doctor’s offices or pharmacies near you that offer the vaccine, visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.

Who Should Not Get Shingrix?

The side effects of the Shingrix are temporary and usually last 2 to 3 days. While you may experience pain for a few days after getting Shingrix, the pain will be less severe than having shingles and the complications from the disease.

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
  • tested negative for immunity to the varicella-zoster virus. If you test negative, you should get the chickenpox vaccine5.
  • Currently, have shingles
  • currently are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should wait to get Shingrix.

If you have a minor acute (starts suddenly) illness, such as a cold, you may get Shingrix. But if you have a moderate or severe acute illness, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.

How Well Does Shingrix Work?

Two doses of Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of shingles.

  • In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 97% effective in preventing shingles; among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective.
  • In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing PHN; among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective.

Shingrix protection remained high (more than 85%) in people 70 years and older throughout the four years following vaccination. Since your risk of shingles and PHN increases as you get older, it is important to have strong protection against shingles in your older years.

What are the possible side effects of Shingrix?

Studies show that Shingrix is safe. The vaccine helps your body create a strong defense against shingles. As a result, you are likely to have temporary side effects from getting the shots. The side effects may affect your ability to do normal daily activities for 2 to 3 days.

Most people got a sore arm with mild or moderate pain after getting Shingrix, and some also had redness and swelling where they got the shot. Some people felt tired, had muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. About 1 out of 6 people who got Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities.  Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. Side effects were more common in younger people.

You might react to the first or second dose of Shingrix, or both doses.  If you experience side effects, you may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

New Shingles Vaccine: 90% Effective at Preventing Shingles

Severe allergic reactions to any vaccine are another emergency. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have a severe allergic reaction or another emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.

If you experience side effects from Shingrix, you should report them to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

If you have any questions about side effects from Shingrix, talk with your doctor.

The shingles vaccine does not contain thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury).

CDC still recommends Zostavax® for healthy adults 60 years and older to prevent shingles. This shingles vaccine may be used in certain cases, such as when a person prefers Zostavax or is allergic to Shingrix.

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  1. Eva

    Thank you very much for this article it was very helpful since I never had chickenpox I’m 50’s. You are doing a fantastic job and making sure that ppl are aware what’s out their. Thank you and god bless

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