About one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Fortunately, the shingles vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent an outbreak.
If you’ve had a shingles attack, then you know how painful it can be. However, a shingles attack can have more consequences than just a painful, blistering rash. One of the main complications that can result from a shingles outbreak is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
“PHN causes continuous, chronic pain that lasts even after the skin sores have healed,” said Jason Scheid, director of ambulatory pharmacy for OSF HealthCare. “It is long-term nerve pain after the rash resolves and can be severe enough to impact your daily life.”
Shingles and PHN can be debilitating. Prevention is your best approach.
“The older you are when you get shingles, the greater the risk for PHN,” Jason said. “If the rash presents on your face, there is also a risk of impacting your eye and causing vision problems or even vision loss, so it is essential to be evaluated right away. There is also the potential for rashes and open lesions to become infected.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months, to prevent shingles and complications from the disease.
The Shingrix vaccine is approved for adults age 50 and older. It is available at most OSF HealthCare provider offices and community pharmacies. The vaccine was more than 90% effective at preventing shingles in clinical trials. Protection stays above 85% for at least the first four years after being vaccinated.
The vaccine is given as an intramuscular injection in the arm, and side effects are generally mild. The most common side effects are soreness and arm pain, but redness or swelling is also possible at the injection site.
Tiredness, headache, fever, muscle pain and gastrointestinal side effects like nausea or stomach pain occur in about half of people, but they usually only last for a day or two.
“The side effects of the vaccine are usually limited to a few days of discomfort while a shingles infection can be extremely painful and have long-term complications, like PHN,” Jason said. “Getting the vaccine will protect you from suffering through severe shingles infection and the painful rashes that may develop.”
What does it cost?
Most insurances will cover the shingles vaccine, but the coverage varies. The vaccine can be administered at an OSF office under your medical benefits, but some plans, based on your age, will require the vaccine to be administered at a retail pharmacy under your pharmacy benefits.
Out-of-pocket costs will vary by plan and deductible but may be covered as a preventive care benefit. Check with your provider or insurance plan for more details.
“Getting the shingles vaccine when you are eligible is the best way to protect yourself from shingles,” Jason said. “Even if you previously received Zostavax vaccine in the past (an older shingles vaccine no longer available), Shingrix can provide additional protection and is still recommended for vaccination.”
Shingrix is in high demand, which has led to shortages at times. Call ahead to see if it’s available and ask to be added to the list if there’s a wait. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about being vaccinated today.