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New Shingles Vaccine: What You Need To Know

February 12, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Feb. 12, 2018 — In October 2017, the FDA approved a new shingles vaccine, called Shingrix. This January, the CDC officially recommended that adults 50 and over get the new vaccine to prevent this painful, blistering disease instead of the previous one, Zostavax. WebMD asked a few infectious disease experts how Shingrix works and whether it has any risks.

How is Shingrix different from Zostavax?

Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and a painful complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in all age groups. Zostavax only lowers the odds of getting shingles by 51%, and of PHN by 67%. It’s even less effective in people ages 70 and older.

Who should get the Shingrix vaccine?

The CDC says healthy adults ages 50 and over should get the Shingrix vaccine. You should get it even if you’re not sure if you ever had chickenpox, the CDC says.

How many doses of the vaccine do you need?

You need two doses, given 2 to 6 months apart. “That second dose is really important to make sure you get long-term protection,” Hogue says.

What are the side effects?

Shingrix causes more side effects than Zostavax. “That’s the price you pay for the boost in immune response,” Schmader says.

Who shouldn’t get Shingrix?

People who shouldn’t get Shingrix include anyone who:

  • Has had a severe allergic reaction to any of its ingredients
  • Has tested negative for immunity to the varicella zoster virus. If you test negative, you should get chickenpox vaccine.
  • Currently has shingles
  • Is pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are, you should wait to get Shingrix.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices hasn’t confirmed whether the vaccine is safe for people who have a weakened immune system because of a disease or medicine they take. One worry is that taking drugs that weaken the immune system might make the shingles vaccine less effective. It’s also possible that by stimulating the immune system, Shingrix could worsen certain diseases, like leukemia.

Sources

CDC: “About the Vaccine,” “Shingrix Recommendations,” “What Everyone Should Know About Shingles Vaccination (Shingrix),” “What Everyone Should Know About Zostavax.”

Michael Hogue, PharmD, professor of pharmacy, Samford University College of Health Sciences.

William Schaffner, MD, infectious diseases specialist, Vanderbilt University.

Kenneth Schmader, MD, professor of medicine; chief, division of geriatrics, Duke University Medical Center.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: “Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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