New Shingles Vaccine a Priority for All Seniors

The holidays are behind us for another year and it’s probably time to get a handle on the to-do list and start making appointments for the dentist, doctor, optometrist, personal trainer – you get the idea. Older adults may also want to make getting the new shingles vaccine, available early in 2018, a priority.

In October 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee voted to make a new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, the preferred vaccine for adults over the age of 50.  The new vaccine which should be widely available by the end of January, offers better protection from a outbreak of shingles than it’s predecessor Zostavax.  Shingrix is recommended for older adults over the age of 50 and for seniors who have already received the previous vaccine. 

It is estimated that older adults have at least a one in three chance of getting the painful rash in their lifetime and nearly a million cases are reported in the United States each year.  The varicella zoster virus is most commonly contracted as chicken pox in childhood and can remain dormant for many years but is very likely to present as shingles after the age of 50.  Symptoms can include lingering nerve pain and possible damage to eyesight. 

Although the current vaccine reduces the incidence of shingles by nearly half, it’s effectiveness drops significantly over time and after 11 years is considered to have nearly no benefit.  Shingrix has been found to be 97 per cent effective in adults over 50 and 90 per cent effective for people over 70 and well into their 80s.   The new vaccine also appears to provide good protection for longer although it does require two separate doses, two months apart. 

Seniors with a compromised immune system from chemotherapy, transplants, H.I.V. or steroid medications may also find some protection against shingles with the new vaccine that they couldn’t with Zostavax because it was made with a live virus.   Shingrix has the medical community excited; it’s more effective, longer lasting and available to the most vulnerable among older adults.  Seems like this to-do item should rise to the top of the New Year’s list in 2018 for adults over 50.

To read more about Shingrix vaccine, follow this link to the CDC website.