Shingles is an uncomfortable condition caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox. The shingles vaccine is a safe and effective tool that can help prevent the condition in eligible adults.

The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a DNA virus that belongs to the herpesvirus group. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the VZV can remain dormant or inactive in the body for many years, then reactivate and cause shingles. Also known as herpes zoster, the condition can result in an itchy, painful, blistering rash that lasts for 3–5 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the Shingrix vaccine for older adults. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for individuals aged 18 years and older who have an increased risk of shingles. This vaccine can help provide effective protection against shingles, as well as potential complications of the condition.

Read on to learn more about who should get Shingrix, when, and more.

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According to the CDC, the Shingrix vaccine is currently the most effective treatment available to prevent shingles. This vaccine can also help protect against postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. Up to 18% of people with shingles may experience PHN, which results in ongoing pain in areas of the shingles rash.

Shingrix is a recombinant vaccine. This means it contains specific parts of the VZV, such as protein, sugar, or capsid. As such, this type of vaccine can provide a very strong immune response. Additionally, as it does not use live components of the virus, most people can receive the vaccine, including those with weakened immune systems or long-term health conditions.

People can receive Shingrix in two doses, with a separation of 2–6 months between shots. The vaccine protects against shingles with over 90% effectiveness. Efficacy remains over 85% for a minimum of 4 years after vaccination.

The previous shingles vaccine, Zostavax, received FDA approval in 2006 but is no longer available in the United States. Unlike Shingrix, Zostavax offers only 51% effectiveness in preventing shingles and 67% in preventing PHN.

Anyone concerned about shingles and PHN should consult a medical professional to find out whether Shingrix is right for them.

The CDC recommends that everyone aged 50 or older get Shingrix. The FDA adds that individuals older than 18 at a higher risk of shingles are also eligible for the vaccine.

Additionally, those who have previously had chickenpox or shingles should still receive the vaccine. Anyone who received Zostavax in the past may still be at risk for developing shingles. Such individuals should also get the full two doses of the Shingrix vaccine.

Doctors recommend that people experiencing a minor illness still receive Shingrix. But anyone dealing with a severe illness should wait to recover before getting Shingrix. People can consult a medical professional to learn more about their eligibility.

Researchers have not evaluated Shingrix for people who are pregnant or nursing. These individuals should speak with a doctor before receiving Shingrix, and it is normally advisable for them to wait for the vaccine.

Anyone with allergies to Shingrix ingredients should also avoid the vaccine. People who experience severe allergic reactions to the first dose should not get the second dose of Shingrix.

Furthermore, it is not advisable for people to receive the vaccine if they currently have shingles or if they test negative for immunity to VZV. In the case of no immunity, health experts may instead recommend the chickenpox vaccine.

If individuals have any concerns or questions, they can discuss these with their doctor.

The CDC state that two doses of Shingrix are more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN, and protection remains above 85% for at least 4 years after receiving the vaccination. This is consistent with other studies showing that the effectiveness of Shingrix ranges from 91.3% to 96.6% in preventing shingles. For PHN, those percentages range from 88.8% to 91.2%.

Serious adverse events are extremely rare with Shingrix, occurring in under 0.01% of people who receive the vaccine. Some of the more common side effects following Shingrix vaccination may include:

Evidence also indicates that older adults can safely receive the Shingrix and flu vaccine at the same time. Researchers found that taking the vaccines together did not impact the effectiveness of either vaccine.

For most eligible individuals, Shingrix is a safe and effective option for preventing shingles and PHN. Individuals concerned about potential side effects should speak with a doctor to learn more.

Making the decision to get the Shingrix vaccine can be an important step on an individual’s wellness journey. Some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding that decision include:

Why is it important to receive a vaccination against shingles?

About 33% of adults in the U.S. will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Shingles can cause painful blisters, a rash, chills, and fever, among other symptoms. Many people who have shingles later develop PHN, which can cause long-lasting pain that is difficult to treat.

Getting the Shingrix vaccine can help individuals avoid shingles and PHN and help prevent shingles from spreading to vulnerable people.

Can individuals get Shingrix if they have already had shingles?

Yes, medical experts recommend that people who have had shingles still sign up for Shingrix. However, people currently experiencing shingles should wait until their symptoms go away before getting the shingles vaccine.

How long should people wait between Shingrix doses?

The standard waiting period between doses lasts from 2–6 months. The minimum time between doses is 1 month.

What are the age requirements for Shingrix?

Most guidelines state that people aged 50 and older can receive Shingrix, and there is no maximum age. Individuals at a higher risk for developing shingles can receive the vaccine from 18.

What if someone already had the older Zostavax shingles vaccine?

People who have had the Zostavax vaccine should still get the Shingrix vaccine. The Zostavax vaccine is less effective than Shingrix. Getting the Shingrix vaccine can reduce the risk of developing shingles among those who have had Zostavax.

Does the risk of getting shingles increase with age?

Shingles is most common after the age of 50, but it can appear at any age if a person has previously had chickenpox.

How often should people get the vaccine?

Individuals who get Shingrix should make sure to get both doses of the vaccine at an interval of 2–6 months. Anyone seeking further guidance on timing should consult a doctor to decide on the best vaccination schedule for them.

Is it possible to get shingles twice?

Most people who get shingles only experience it one time in their lives. However, it is possible to get shingles more than once. This is known as recurrent shingles. Getting vaccinated can help minimize the chance that this will happen.

These are only a few of the many questions people may have about Shingrix. To learn more about the vaccine and shingles, individuals can consult a medical professional.

Commercial insurance covers about 96% of insured people for the Shingrix vaccine. Most people with private insurance will pay under $5 for each dose.

Programs like Medicaid cover Shingrix in certain states. Medicare Parts A and B do not cover the shingles vaccine. But individuals covered under Medicare prescription drug plans, or Part D, will have their vaccines covered.

For people who do not have access to insurance, there are a number of vaccine assistance programs and affordable health coverage options available. Many of these programs provide vaccines at little or no cost.

Shingrix is currently the most recent and effective shingles vaccine available. It can help protect against shingles and potential complications from the condition, such as PHN. People who are at risk of developing shingles should consider vaccination if they are eligible.