Shingles 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. 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. Anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles, and the risk of shingles increases as you get older.
Shingles vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication from shingles. A new shingles vaccine called Shingrix was licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of Shingrix, 2 to 6 months apart to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease. Your primary care provider can give you Shingrix as a shot in your upper arm.
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. Shingrix is the preferred vaccine, over Zostavax, a shingles vaccine in use since 2006.
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 can 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.
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. If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your primary care provider.
You can get the Shingrix vaccine through your primary care provider at Weeks. To make an appointment call 603-788-5095.
This information courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 2018.