August is National Immunization Month! You may be thinking that this month is for kids heading back to school, but older adults count as well. In fact, it’s often adults who get overlooked when it comes to immunizations because they don’t keep track as well. Do you remember the last time you had a Tdap vaccine? Probably not.
The CDC recommends that adults 65 years old and over get the following immunizations:
- Influenza vaccine
- Tdap vaccine
- Shingles vaccine
- Pneumococcal vaccine
Talk to your doctor about these vaccines and which ones you should get. In the meantime, we want to discuss the new shingles vaccine and everything you need to know about it.
What is Shingles?
Shingles is a condition that comes from the same virus as the chickenpox. Chickenpox comes much earlier, usually decades before. It starts with itchy blisters that spread throughout the body. With shingles, a rash with shooting pain is typically how things start. One of the worst parts about shingles is that it can cause postherpetic neuralgia. This nerve pain can last for a long time and cause burning sensations, sensitivity and severe pain.
How Has it Been Prevented?
The old vaccine, called Zostavax, has been used since 2006 to prevent shingles and lessen symptoms if the condition does occur. However, Zostavax uses a live vaccine, so there are potential side effects to deal with. Also, the vaccine is only 51% effective at preventing shingles and 67% effective at preventing postherpetic neuralgia. Still, the vaccine has been better than nothing and was strongly recommended for most older adults. Until now.
Shingrix: The New Shingles Vaccine
In October 2017, the FDA approved Shingrix, a new shingles vaccine. Then in January 2018, the CDC confirmed that adults 50 and over should get this vaccine to prevent shingles. Here are the things to know about Shingrix.
- It’s effective. Shingrix is 90% effective at preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. This protection is better than we’ve seen before. Even if you do get the virus, the symptoms should be mild with the vaccine.
- It contains a dead virus. Unlike Zostavax that contains a live virus, the new vaccine contains a dead one. This means that your body will have a stronger immune response to it, and the side effects are lesser.
- You can get it at 50. The recommended age for Zostavax was 60 and older, but with Shingrix, you can get the protection earlier. Researchers are hoping that the immune response will be stronger and last longer.
- You can get it even if you had the old vaccine. It’s safe to get Shingrix even if you already had Zostavax. Because it’s more effective, the CDC recommends it. (The shots need to be at least two months apart.)
- It’s given in two doses. Shingrix requires two doses given two to six months apart. The second dose is needed for long-term protection.
For more information about the new shingles vaccine, visit WebMD.com or talk to your doctor.