Harvard Health Letter

New thinking on shingles prevention

News briefs

A new vaccine may help prevent the painful and blistering rash called shingles. The FDA approved Shingrix in October 2017. That same month, an advisory panel for the CDC found Shingrix superior to Zostavax, the shingles vaccine thatís been in use for more than a decade. The CDC panel also recommended Shingrix for adults ages 50 or older (as opposed to 60 or older for Zostavax), even if theyíve already received Zostavax. At the time this issue went to press, those recommendations were still pending approval from CDC officials.

The reason for the new approach: Shingrix has been found to be about 90% effective across all age groups. Thatís far higher than Zostavax, which studies have shown to be about 60% effective in people ages 60 to 69 and no more than 40% effective in people ages 70 or older. However, the Shingrix vaccine is more likely than Zostavax to cause temporary side effects, such as fever and muscle pain.

Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. While shingles is often just temporary, it can cause nerve pain that can linger for years. If youíre over 50, talk to your doctor about whether you should get this new vaccine.

Learn more about our
health content.