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Shingles Vaccines: Booster Shots for Adults

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Shingles Vaccines: Booster Shots for Adults
Vaccines aren’t just for kids. If you are over the age of 50, taking care of yourself goes beyond eating right and exercising. Shots remain critical to maintaining health and wellness, so consider vaccinating yourself against shingles—an easy, long-lasting way to guard against a serious disease.
If you already were vaccinated, speak to your physician about renewing your vaccines, since prevention is the best treatment for shingles. Patients have two options: Shingrix, GlaxoSmithKline’s newest shingles vaccine, and Zostavax (made by Merck), the original shingles vaccine. Both are still recommended.
Before calling your doctor’s office or visiting your pharmacist, read on to understand the shingles disease and review the benefits of getting your shot.

More Than Just an Itchy Skin Rash
Shingles is chickenpox’s angrier cousin. If you’ve had chickenpox as a child, you are at risk for a shingles infectionsince the virus lies dormant in your nervous system and reactivates decades later. Scientists aren’t sure why this happens, but older adults tend to develop weakened immune systems and other risk factors as they age.
Extreme body aches, fever, and pain are typically the first signs of infection, followed by a red rash that is generally confined to the torso, neck, or face. Besides itching, the small red bumps may blister and weep, making your skin painful to the touch and infection-prone.
Without treatment, shingles may cause permanent neurological complications. Folks unlucky enough to have rashes near the eye are at risk for vision loss. But even if you seek treatment, shingles is highly contagious and can cause devastating infections in those with compromised immune systems.

Vaccines Can Save You and Your Loved Ones
Because shingles spreads easily, vaccinating yourself protects others from infection even if you’re not sure you’re ill. If you’ve had the chickenpox, you have two vaccine options from which to choose. Before scheduling an appointment, check with your insurance company regarding coverage. Medicare Part D covers shingles shots but always call ahead to confirm.

Shingrix is the latest shingles vaccine, a multi-dose formulation offering over five years of protection. A nonliving virus is injected into your body, helping to boost your immune system's defenses. Patients receive one shot and return two to six months later for the second.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends Shingrix for healthy adults aged 50 and over. Qualified patients must have had a chickenpox infection to receive Shingrix. And, even if you’ve been vaccinated previously, you can still receive a Shingrix shot. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you if this is appropriate for you.

Zostavax is available for healthy adults over 60 years of age. It works by injecting a live version of the virus. Unlike Shingrix, its protection lasts about five years and is then re-administered. It’s a one-dose vaccine, so only a single needle stick is necessary. Like Shingrix, Zostavax is only appropriate for patients with a history of chickenpox.

Remember, Vaccines Aren’t Failsafe
Vaccines aren’t treatment strategies—they are preventative medications. If you become infected, it is too late to receive a vaccination.
If you’ve never had chickenpox, speak to your physician or pharmacist. Since Shingrix and Zostavax are approved only for administration to patients with a history of chickenpox, you may receive chickenpox vaccine instead.
And remember, all vaccines have potential side effects. Common side effects of both Shingrix and Zostavax include a rash at the injection site, sore muscles, and headaches. If you experience serious side effects, always contact your physician's office or go to the emergency room.

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