New Shingles Vaccine: What You Need To Know

Unlike some vaccines, there’s been so much demand for the new shingles vaccine Shingrix that it’s not always easy to find. It was approved in 2017, and the CDC recommends the vaccine for adults 50 and older to prevent this painful, blistering illness. It is being used in place of the previous vaccine, Zostavax.

More than a year later, doctors say they are learning more about how it works, its safety risks, and how it compares to Zostavax.

How effective is Shingrix?

“It’s just remarkable,” says Wilbur Chen, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It has performed better than I expected.”

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) hasn’t confirmed whether the vaccine is safe for people who have a weakened immune system because of a disease or medicine.

“The big concern among certain groups of doctors is that they don’t want to evoke a reaction that might, for example, in a transplant patient result in a rejection of the transplant,” Schaffner says. “They want to make absolutely sure the vaccine is safe.” Another worry is that taking drugs that weaken the immune system might make the shingles vaccine less effective.

ACIP is discussing how to give the vaccine to people with a weakened immune system. It’s important for this group to be protected because they’re at higher risk for shingles and its complications.

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