This new shingles vaccine is now available in some local pharmacies (Kroger and CVS). Walgreens and Wal-Mart do not yet have it but plan to. The reason I call it a break-through is that it is 90% effective in preventing shingles in people over 50 years of age. This is a significant improvement over the prior shingles vaccine (Zostavax) which was only 50% effective in preventing shingles and the immunity wore off after 5 years.
FDA Approval and Recommendation
The FDA approved the vaccine in November 2017 for adults 50 and older and the CDC subsequently recommended it to everyone over 60. The old vaccine was a live virus and could not be given to certain people. SHINGRIX is not a live virus which means it is not contraindicated in people who have cancer or who are immunocompromised. I placed a call to a Glaxo-Smith-Kline representative today who informed me that they do not have an “indication” from the FDA to recommend giving the vaccine to immunocompromised individuals. However they have tested it in immunocompromised individuals (bone marrow transplant patients) and it has been effective. This is great news.
If you have recently taken the old shingles vaccine you can still get the new vaccine. It is a series of two vaccines. You should get one now and one in 2-6 months. Study data to date show effectiveness of the vaccine in terms of antibody response up to 9 years.
SHINGLES, the disease
Shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus (Varicella-Zoster virus) that has been stored in the nerve root ever since getting the chicken pox at a young age. It is manifested as a painful red rash on one side of the body. It frequently occurs on the back and legs. The rash may last for 2 months, but the pain and discomfort can last much longer. Frequently one can develop a burning pain before the rash develops (preherpetic neuralgia) and many have pain after the rash is gone (post herpetic neuralgia). This latter pain can be debilitating.
Bottom line: If you are 50 or over get the new shingles vaccine at your pharmacy as soon as it is available.
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Disclosures: I have no connection to Glaxo Smith Kline nor do I receive any remuneration for recommending the vaccine.
David G. Wilson MD,