Shingles, a localized reactivation of the chicken pox virus, is a serious illness that can leave adults in severe pain, cause eye damage, lead to hearing problems, encephalitis and, in rare instances, death. A recent survey found that only 38% of adults in the U.S. knew a vaccine for shingles was available.
Shingrix, which received FDA approval last year, was found to be 97% effective in adults aged 50 to 69 years, and more than 90% effective in those 70 years of age as well as those past 80.
Adults older than 50 years — even those who have already had shingles, have been vaccinated against the disease with the older, less effective shingles vaccine, Zostavax, or are not sure if they have had the chickenpox — should receive two doses of Shingrix. The second dose is administered 2 to 6 months after the first one.
Patients should not get the Shingrix vaccine if they currently have shingles, have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix, are not immune to the virus that causes chickenpox or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Adverse events tied to the Shingrix vaccine include headache, feeling tired, muscle pain, shivering, fever, stomach pain or upset stomach, swelling, or redness at the injection site. These events are usually mild and go away within a few days.
Shingrix is available for administration at many pharmacies. It’s advisable to discuss any questions you have about this vaccine with your physician.