Medical News: A New Shingles Vaccine

A quick synopsis on the new shingles vaccine.

Did you already receive your Shingles vaccine?  Are you over 50 and haven’t gotten it yet? Recently a new Shingles vaccine has been developed. Read on for more information and answers to all your questions.

First, let’s talk a little about Shingles. Shingles is a painful rash typically located over one side of the torso but it can also affect the face and other areas.  It is the reactivation of the chickenpox virus which stays in the nerves after the disease is gone.  Approximately 1 of every 3 older adults in the US will get shingles.  Usually it will be reactivated during a physically or emotionally stressful time. The rash consists of yellow fluid filled blisters over a red area on the skin and is accompanied by an electric or lightning type nerve pain over the area.  It can be treated with an antiviral medication called Valtrex which can speed recovery and resolution of the rash.  Nerve pain medications such as gabapentin can be effective for the pain.  Rarely, the nerve pain can be long term.

The new vaccine is called Shingrix and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.  It gained approval by the FDA in October 2017 and about a week later was officially recommended by the CDC.  This came shortly after the results of its studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in September.  The study showed that the vaccine was about 90% effective at preventing shingles.  This is in stark contrast to the old vaccine called Zostavax which is only about 50% effective.   

The new Shingrix has been approved and recommended for individuals 50 years of age or older compared to age 60 and over for the old Zostavax.  It is given in a 2 shot regimen separated by 2 months compared to a single shot previously. According to experts, the new Shingrix is better in every way, except one: side effects. The studies did show that more people had adverse reactions including fever and muscle aches.  If you have had shingles, the vaccine is still recommended. Lastly, the price is not much different.  For the series of Shingrix vaccines it is about $280 compared to $223 for Zostavax (57 more dollars for 40% more effectiveness?  Sounds worth it to me.)

My Take Away:

Since hearing of the news of the new Shingles vaccine I have stopped giving the old Zostavax vaccine and recommend waiting for the new one.  Once it is available I will recommend it solely. For those that have already received the old vaccine, I will recommend getting the new vaccine. It is unclear at this point whether or not insurances will cover the new vaccine and I would recommend checking first to make sure. For some the $280 price tag is well worth avoiding the awful disease of shingles.

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To read my other post this week about the new blood pressure guidelines, click here.

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