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Well and Good: Shots Against Shingles

Shingles is a painful disease, so it was good news when a shingles vaccine was introduced in 2006. But now there’s more good news – the vaccine is even more effective than originally thought, and it has now been approved for younger people.

We already administer the shingles vaccine, Zostavax, in our pharmacy as a convenience to our customers. The vaccine has been available for people 60 and over since its introduction. It protects against the rash known as shingles, which is related to the chickenpox but is more painful and long-lasting. Older people are much more likely to get shingles, and the severity of the condition also often increases with age.

However, the sharp increase in shingles rates actually rises earlier than age 60. Among people age 50 and over, about six in a thousand get shingles. That’s three times the rate of people under 50.

So, in 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved use of the shingles vaccine in people 50 and older. The lower age limit was put in place after the vaccine maker, Merck, completed clinical trials that showed the vaccine was effective in preventing shingles in younger people, and lessened the symptoms of vaccinated younger people who did get the disease.

Should you get the shot – and when?

The Centers for Disease Control already recommends the use of Zostavax in most people 60 and over.

But those between 50 and 59 should consider that their risk goes up with age –so why wait? Zostavax is also a one-time shot. You do not need a booster for additional protection.

Also, even if you have already suffered through shingles, you can get it again. The vaccination also works on people who have already had a case of shingles.

Finally, this is definitely one of those situations where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once you get shingles, there really aren’t many treatments available – and the pain and side effects can last for a year or more.

A prescription is needed, so consult your physician. The shot costs $200, which may be covered or partially covered by your insurance. Our professional pharmacists can administer the shots during normal pharmacy hours, but for your convenience, we recommend calling ahead to make sure the vaccination is available the day you plan to arrive.