While it’s a good idea to get your flu shot every fall, there’s one more vaccine you need to know about this year. An advisory panel to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just recommended that everyone over the age of 50 receive a new vaccination against shingles called Shingrix. About one out of every three people in the U.S. contacts this dangerous viral infection, also called herpes zoster. Shingles most notably causes a painful rash with blisters, but the real danger lies in the potential complications: severe and prolonged nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia, inflammation of the brain, hearing problems, vision loss and even death.
It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same one behind chicken pox. Once a person has had chicken pox, they’re at risk of developing shingles years or even decades later. Doctors recommend getting the shingles vaccine whether you remember having chickenpox or not since studies show over 99% of Americans over 40 have actually had the disease.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) previously recommended another shot called Zostavax for people over 60, but only 30% of that age group actually received it. Plus, this new vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline works a lot better, according to clinical trials. While Zostavax showed a 51% reduction in shingles, Shingrix was about 85% effective over three years, the New York Times reports.
It will take a few months to get the official go-ahead, but the CDC is expected to endorse this vaccine as well based on the committee’s recommendations. Even if you’ve received the shingles vaccine before, the ACIP still advises getting this additional layer of protection, unless you’re pregnant, immunocompromised or allergic to certain ingredients.
GlaxoSmithKline says Shingrix will be available starting next month, and cost about $280 for two doses. Most insurance companies will likely cover the bill, especially now that the vaccine has this official backing. While no one likes getting shots, this important immunization could potentially save you from an uncomfortable rash — or worse.