Shingles is a common disease that affects approximately one in three people during their lifetime.
The disease, which causes a painful rash that develops on the side of the body or face and can also affect the eyes, can take weeks to heal and cause other complications.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, so those who had chickenpox in the past are at a risk, and that risk increases as you get older.
A new shingles vaccine, however, is now on the market. Shingrix is now the most effective method for preventing shingles. “It’s very effective,” said Stephanie Smith Cooney, a pharmacist and president of Gatti Pharmacy in Indiana. “It’s not a live vaccine, which allows it to be given to a wider selection of the population including those who are immunocompromised, who weren’t able to get the old vaccine.”
The vaccine is given in two doses, separated by two to six months and is available to healthy adults who are 50 years of age or older. Information from Gatti Pharmacy recommends that even adults who have never had chickenpox should get the vaccine, as well as adults who have already had shingles or have received previous shingles vaccinations.
You should not receive the vaccine if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or if you have a moderate to severe acute illness.
The pharmacy’s website also states that side effects of the vaccine are typically temporary and include redness, swelling and soreness at the injection site.
It is also important to get both doses even if you experience side effects from the first dose to receive full protection.
“There have been some availability issues,” said Smith Cooney.
“With the vaccine being available to such a wide population and being so widely recommended, it’s in high demand. We’ve had a fairly consistent supply for four or five months. It all depends on who the supplier is.”
Smith Cooney said those interested in the vaccine can receive it directly at the pharmacy.
“The vaccine is typically covered through pharmacy benefits. Medicare-D gets it through those benefits. It can be difficult for a physician to be able to write it off since it will be covered as a medical expense. It’s easier to cover bills for this vaccine than others through the pharmacy benefits.”
While Medicare-D is the most common plan to cover the vaccine, Smith Cooney said that many commercial plans also cover it, though since plans vary so broadly, it’s important to check first.
“I always encourage people to inquire before receiving the vaccine since it can be fairly expensive if not covered by insurance.”
Smith Cooney also encouraged those in the community to try to be up to date on all vaccines, not just the shingles ones, especially in light of the current climate.
The pharmacy has even been giving vaccines to people while they remain in their cars to help limit public exposure.
“With COVID going on right now, it’s a good reminder to be up to date on vaccines whenever there are ones available. Anything that’s within the CDC recommendations are important steps to make sure you stay healthy and protected.”