New Shingles Vaccine Available

There is a new shingles vaccine available.  It is called Shingrix® and is more effective in preventing shingles episodes than the original shingles vaccine Zostavax®.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee recommended in October 2017, that Shingrix be the preferred vaccine for shingles.  Once the recommendation is approved by the CDC director, it will become official policy.  

Shingrix® is making a big splash in medical news because it has been shown to prevent more than 90% of shingles cases, compared to just over 50% of shingles cases with the Zostavax vaccine.  Importantly, the new vaccine appears to be equally effective in patients over the age of 70 years, which is an important benefit compared to the original vaccine.  Duration of protection has yet to be confirmed, but appears promising.   

The shingles vaccination is indicated for healthy adults aged 50 years and older.  Current CDC guidelines recommend that all patients aged 60 years and older get vaccinated to prevent both shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).  PHN is the major complication that can occur following a shingles episode.  It causes severe pain in the area where the rash appeared.  Older adults are at higher risk of developing PHN.  In some cases, the pain is severe and lasts for months to years.  

Patients who already have received the Zostavax® vaccine should still get the new Shingrix® vaccine.  It is administered as two doses, with the 2nd dose administered 2 to 6 months following the first injection.  Side effects that were more commonly documented in patients receiving Shingrix compared to placebo included:  injection site reactions like pain, redness, swelling; muscle ache, fatigue, headache, chills and fever.  Reactions lasted on average 2 to 3 days.

Bottom line:  talk with your physician about getting this new shingles vaccine.   It will be available beginning late 2017 at your doctor’s office and community pharmacy. 


Written November 29, 2017

By Hedva Barenholtz Levy, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP

 This material is intended to encourage discussion with your health care provider.  It is informational only and not intended to replace the guidance of your health care team.