Q:  Mr. Pedometer, some friends of mine have suggested that I should get a new shingles vaccine, even though I already have had one. Is there any validity to their suggestion?

A:  Apparently so. This month’s Consumer Reports on Health explained why:

  • “Shingles – a painful, blistering rash on one side of the body –strikes nearly 1 in 3 adults during their lifetime.”
  • “The two- to four- week course of shingles can be challenging, but about 1 in 5 people with it develop postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, nerve pain that can linger for months, even years.”
  • Since 2006, the Zostavax vaccine has been the only protection against shingles. However,
    • Zostavax offers 70% protection against shingles for those ages 50-59, but only 18% for people 80 and older
    • Its effectiveness appears to last just five years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and
    • It cut the risk of PHN by only 67%
  • “Now Shingrix, a new two-shot vaccine, holds the promise of a more robust defense.”
    • According to clinical trials, Shingrix “confers 97% protection for people in their 50s and 60s, and roughly 91% protection for those in their 70s and 80s.”
    • “It retained similar effectiveness throughout the four-year study period, and
    • [It] cut PHN risk by 86 %.”
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention last October advised that
    • People should get Shingrix starting at age 50 (10 years earlier than they had recommended for Zostavax)
    • Opt for Shingrix instead of Zostavax
    • Get Shingrix even if they already have had Zostavax
    • The two Shingrix shots must begiven two to six months apart

The article urges people to talk with their doctors about Shingrix, even those people who have had shingles.  The article’s one warning was that it could take time for insurance, especially Medicare, to catch up with the new Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, which could mean that the total $280 cost for the two shots may not be covered right away.

Mr. Pedometer has not (yet) been afflicted with shingles, but the walking group members who have assure me that it should be avoided!