What to know about the shingles vaccine

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

The shingles vaccine has been a topic of interest and confusion for quite a long time now. There are several reasons for this, including questions about who is recommended to get the vaccine, the presence of multiple vaccine options in the market, and the shortage of vaccine available.

The newest and recommended shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is for adults age 50 and older. It is a two-dose series, given two to six months apart. This vaccine has shown in clinical trials to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing shingles, and also effective in reducing the likelihood of post-herpetic neuralgia. Some people should not get the Shingrix vaccine, including anyone who has had a severe, life-threatening allergy to a previous dose or a component of the vaccine; anyone pregnant or breastfeeding; and anyone who is moderately or severely ill.

Many patients also have questions about the need for vaccination because of a previous vaccination with the live zoster vaccine, Zostavax. This vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006 and was shown to reduce the risk of shingles by about 50 percent in patients age 60 and older. Many patients received this vaccine before Shingrix was available, however the Immunization Action Coalition and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccination with the Shingrix vaccine in all patients age 50 and older, even if they were previously vaccinated with Zostavax.

The response to the Shingrix was extremely high and a shortage of the vaccine has been a major roadblock to patients getting their needed vaccinations. As the vaccination becomes available in small amounts vaccine providers have been trying to get them to the patients who need them quickly and efficiently. Every attempt to vaccinate patient within the allotted two- to six-month window is being made, and the CDC recommends that patients still be vaccinated with their second dose even if it is past that time frame. At this point the shortage seems to be alleviated and vaccine is available.

Christina Hart is the Pharmacist-in-charge.