What Else To Know About The Shingles Vaccine
Ready to get vaccinated? This is the essential info on how the shots are given, what to expect with side effects, and more.
You need two doses of Shingrix to get full protection from shingles. You should get your second dose 2 to 6 months after the first. Your doctor or pharmacist will inject the vaccine into the muscle of your upper arm, so wear clothes that give easy access to that area.
If it has been more than 6 months since you got your first dose, go ahead and get your second dose. You dont need to start over, Dooling says.
Because Shingrix is so new, experts arent sure whether youll eventually need another shot, or a booster, years down the road.
The CDC is actively following how protected people remain after the two-dose series, she says. We know that after 4 years, protection remains above 85%. Only time will tell how durable that protection is.
You have to wait 2 weeks between Shingrix and COVID-19 vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccines are so new that the CDC isnt sure how theyll interact with Shingrix. If youve gotten either Shingrix or a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 14 days, youll need to reach the 2-week mark before you get the other one.
Side effects are fairly common. You may have heard that people sometimes have unpleasant side effects soon after they get the shingles vaccine.
Shingrix tends to have has more side effects than some vaccines, like those for the seasonal flu, says Kistler. The shingles vaccine may cause:
What Is Herpes Zoster
Shingles, like a number of itchy, highly communicable skin conditions, is caused by the herpes virus. Herpes zoster, the specific form of the herpes virus, is also responsible for chickenpox. Unlike some forms of herpes, herpes zoster is not a sexually transmitted infection. The shingles and chickenpox viruses are unique because they can lie dormant in the body for years. During herpes zosters resting phase, a person will notice no symptoms. Its only when the virus resurfaces that symptoms crop up again. Once a person has herpes zoster, their chances of having another flare up are high. Herpes zoster is highly contagious, and is spread by skin to skin contact, or contact with the fluids that may be contained in shingles or chickenpox lesions.
Chickenpox Vs Shingles: Causes Symptoms Treatment
Chickenpox most commonly occurs in children and usually causes mild symptoms like:
- blistering rash
After a chickenpox infection, the virus remains dormant in your body. Shingles occur when the virus becomes reactivated.
Shingles can cause similar symptoms as chickenpox. But a shingles rash usually appears as a cluster of blisters on one side of your body rather than showing up all over.
Keep reading as we take a deeper look at the differences between chickenpox and shingles.
Chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, but they develop in different ways.
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I Feel Healthy Am I Really At Risk For Shingles
If youre one of the 99% of adults 50 years and older who have had chickenpox, the virus that causes shingles is inside your body and can reactivate at any time. 1 in every 3 people in the US will get shingles in their lifetime. No matter how healthy you feel, your immune system declines as you age, and that puts you at an increased risk for shingles.
What You Should Know About Shingles And The Shingles Vaccine
With so much attention these days on vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu, the shingles vaccine can easily be overlooked. That could be unfortunate because the shingles vaccine, known as Shingrix, has proven effective at preventing the potentially debilitating effects of this virus.
Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus . The virus can remain dormant in the body for decades after a chickenpox infection and its not known what triggers the virus to reactivate and cause shingles.
When it does, however, it can result in a painful rash. Typically, it affects the trunk of the body — below the neck and above the waist. But the rash can also occur elsewhere.
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How Is Chickenpox Treated
Specific treatment for chickenpox will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:
- Your overall health and medical history
- Extent of the condition
- Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment for chickenpox may include:
- Acetaminophen . Children with chickenpox should NEVER be given aspirin.
- Skin lotion
- Antiviral drugs
- Bed rest
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Cool baths with baking soda
Children should not scratch the blisters because it could lead to secondary bacterial infections. Keep fingernails short to decrease the likelihood of scratching.
Who Should Get Shingrix
Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. You should get Shingrix even if in the past you
- had shingles
- are not sure if you had chickenpox
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, you can get Shingrix to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
You can get Shingrix whether or not you remember having had chickenpox in the past. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans 40 years and older have had chickenpox, even if they dont remember having the disease. Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus . After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Shingrix is available in doctors offices and pharmacies.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
* A shingles vaccine called Zostavax is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020. If you had Zostavax in the past, you should still get Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
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Who Should Get The Shingles Vaccine
The CDC recommends it for healthy adults over the age of 50., but the FDA has approved Shingrix for people 18 and older who are or who will be at increased risk of shingles due to immunodeficiency or immunosuppression caused by known disease or therapy. This includes those who have already had shingles, which you can have more than once. Vaccination lowers the chances of a second round of the painful rash and of a serious outbreak and complications, Kistler says.
Thats why Duncan Isley, who had shingles at 45, recently got vaccinated. The outbreak he had was fairly mild compared with the stories hes heard from others. But its something he doesnt want to repeat.
I had the classic torso rash and back pain. It was a very painful experience to be sure, and I still have some lingering, minor nerve sensations from time to time, says Isley, who is now 53 and lives in Durham, NC. I tell my close friends they should get vaccinated.
You should also get vaccinated with Shingrix if you got an older shingles vaccine called Zostavax, which was withdrawn from the market in 2020. Zostavaxs protection wears off with time, says Kathleen Dooling, MD, MPH, a medical officer and shingles disease expert at the CDC.
In the first year after vaccination, Zostavax prevented shingles about 60% of the time. That decreases in subsequent years, so that after a number of years its not clear that the vaccine is providing any protection, she says.
What To Know About Shingles And The Chickenpox Vaccine
The chickenpox vaccine is not causing a surge or epidemic of shingles. In fact, in addition to reducing your children’s risk of developing chickenpox, it can likely reduce their risk of developing shingles later in life.
Weinmann S. Incidence and clinical characteristics of herpes zoster among children in the varicella vaccine era, 20052009. Journal of Infection Diseases. 2013 208:1859-68.
- Hales, Craig M. Examination of Links Between Herpes Zoster Incidence and Childhood Varicella Vaccination. Ann Intern Med. 2013 159:739-745.
- Leung J. Herpes zoster incidence among insured persons in the United States, 1993-2006: evaluation of the impact of varicella vaccination. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2011 52:332-340.
- Russell ML. Shingles in Alberta: before and after publicly funded varicella vaccination. Vaccine. Volume 32, Issue 47, 29 October 2014, Pages 63196324.
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How Is Shingles Treated
Shingles is treated with medicines. These medicines include antiviral medicines and medicines for pain. Treatment may shorten the illness and prevent complications.
See your doctor right away if you think you may have shingles. Starting antiviral medicine right away can help your rash heal faster and be less painful. And you may need prescription pain medicine if your case of shingles is very painful. It’s important to see your doctor right away if you have shingles near your eye or nose. Treatment can help prevent permanent eye damage.
Other treatments may help with intense pain. Getting pain under control right away may prevent nerve damage that may cause pain that lasts for months or years.
Good home care also can help you feel better faster. Avoid scratching blisters. Apply baking soda to help dry the sores. Soak crusted sores with tap water to clean away crusts and soothe the skin.
How Well Does Zostavax Work
Zostavax®, the shingles vaccine, reduced the risk of shingles by 51% and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67% based on a large study of more than 38,000 adults aged 60 years or older. Protection from shingles vaccine lasts about 5 years.
While the vaccine was most effective in people 60 through 69 years old, it also provides some protection for people 70 years old and older.
Adults vaccinated before age 60 years might not be protected later in life when the risk for shingles and its complications are greatest.
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How Well Does Shingrix Work
Two doses of Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia , the most common complication of shingles.
- In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 97% effective in preventing shingles among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective.
- In adults 50 to 69 years old who got two doses, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing PHN among adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective.
Shingrix protection remained high in people 70 years and older throughout the four years following vaccination. Since your risk of shingles and PHN increases as you get older, it is important to have strong protection against shingles in your older years.
Shingles Vaccine And Insurance
Private health insurance plans often cover vaccination costs. Still, a patient might have a charge depending on the specific insurance plan.
Medicaid may or may not cover the vaccine cost. Medicare Part D plans cover the shingles vaccine, but there may be a cost to the patient depending on the plan. Usually, the fees are less than $50 per dose.
Medicare Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine.
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Who Is At Risk For Shingles
You! About 98 percent of adults have had chickenpox and are at risk for shingles. In the United States, at least 1 million people get shingles each year. Shingles is far more common in people age 50 and older than in younger people. About half of shingles cases occur in people age 60 or older. It is more common in people who have a weakened immune system because of a disease, such as cancer or human immunodeficiency virus , or from drugs, like steroids or chemotherapy. Anyone can get shingles, though, including children.
Who Is At Risk For Chickenpox
Any child or adult who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it is at risk for getting the disease.
Chickenpox is passed from person-to-person by direct contact or through the air by coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread by being exposed to the fluid from the blistering rash. Once exposed, symptoms usually appear within a couple of weeks. But it may take as few as 10 and as many as 21 days for the chickenpox to develop.
Chickenpox is contagious for 1 to 2 days before the rash starts and until the blisters have all dried and become scabs. The blisters usually dry and become scabs within 5 to 7 days of the onset of the rash. Children should stay home and away from other children until all of the blisters have scabbed over. It is important that people who are infected avoid those with weak immune systems, such as those with organ transplants, HIV, or those getting cancer treatment.
Family members who have never had chickenpox have a high chance of becoming infected when another family member in the house is infected. The illness is often more severe in adults compared to children.
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How Do You Get Shingles
Shingles usually occurs from inside your own body when the chickenpox virus reactivates. If you have not had chickenpox, you cant get shingles.
If you have not had chickenpox, you can be infected with chickenpox from someone who has shingles. This happens if you come in contact with the fluid from shingles blisters.
I’m Pregnant And Have Recently Been Exposed To Someone With Chickenpox How Will This Exposure Affect Me Or My Pregnancy
- Susceptible pregnant women are at risk for associated complications when they contract varicella. Varicella infection causes severe illness in pregnant women, and 10%-20% of those infected develop varicella pneumonia, with mortality reported as high as 40%.
- Because of these risks, pregnant women without evidence of immunity to varicella who have been exposed to the virus may be given varicella-zoster immune globulin to reduce their risk of disease complications.
- If you are pregnant and have never had chickenpox, and you get chickenpox during the:
- First half of your pregnancy, there is a very slight risk for birth defects or miscarriage.
- Second half of your pregnancy, the baby may have infection without having any symptoms and then get shingles later in life.
- Newborns whose mothers develop varicella rash from 5 days before to 2 days after delivery are at risk for neonatal varicella, associated with mortality as high as 30%. These infants should receive preventive treatment with varicella-zoster immune globulin .
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Additional Risk Factors For Shingles
- Having a disease that weakens the immune system, such as HIV and cancer
- Receiving cancer treatment or other medications that weaken the immune system
- Experiencing long-term use of steroids, like prednisone
- Being over the age of 50, which puts you at greater risk for shingles
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What Illnesses Does Varicella
Chickenpox first occurs as a blister-like skin rash and fever. It takes from 10-21 days after exposure for someone to develop chickenpox. The sores commonly occur in batches with different stages present at the same time. The blisters usually scab over in 5 days. A person with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. Children with weakened immune systems may have blisters occurring for a prolonged time period. Adults can develop severe pneumonia and other serious complications.
Shingles occurs when the virus, which has been inactive for some time, becomes active again. Severe pain and numbness along nerve pathways, commonly on the trunk or on the face, are present. Clusters of blisters appear 1 to 5 days later. The blisters are usually on one side of the body and closer together than in chickenpox. Shingles does not spread as shingles from one person to another. If people who have never had chickenpox come in contact with the fluid from shingles blisters, they can develop chickenpox.
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Getting Vaccinated After You Are Exposed To Chickenpox
If you do not have immunity against chickenpox and are exposed to someone with this disease or shingles, talk with your doctor about getting chickenpox vaccine.
You should get chickenpox vaccine within 3 to 5 days of being exposed. Even if more than 5 days have passed since you were exposed, vaccination with two doses is still recommended to protect against future exposures. You need 2 doses of vaccine separated by minimum of 28 days.
For more information, see Who Needs Chickenpox Vaccine.
If you previously got 1 dose of chickenpox vaccine, you should get a second dose.
Getting vaccinated after you are exposed to someone with chickenpox can:
- prevent the disease or make it less serious
- protect you from chickenpox if you are exposed again in the future
A doctor can prescribe a medicine to make chickenpox less severe if you:
- are exposed to chickenpox,
Students in school settings have a higher chance of spreading chickenpox because they are constantly in close contact with each other.
Chickenpox vaccine prevents the disease and outbreaks in childcare settings and schools. This leads to:
- less illness and less school time missed by students, and
- less chance of exposing people who cannot get vaccinated.
For more information, see State Vaccination Requirements.
What About The New Shingrix Vaccine
Shingrix is the clear vaccine of choice, Orrange said. Its 97 percent effective at preventing shingles, and immunity is not believed to wane over time. While Zostavax contains a weakened live virus which works especially well in helping children fight off the varicella zoster virus Shingrix works differently. This vaccine contains a single protein that causes the immune system to recognize the varicella zoster virus. It seems to work better for older people.
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