How Effective Is Shingrix, the New Shingles Vaccine?

Scientists and health experts are excited about Shingrix, a promising new vaccine to protect against shingles outbreaks.

Getting shingles is not pleasant.

First, a burning pain breaks out across parts of the body — most often the trunk and waist. Then, the painful areas erupt in fluid-filled blisters, sometimes accompanied by fatigue or fever.

Most common in adults over age 50, shingles is both contagious and can be followed by postherpetic neuralgia: a debilitating, long-term nerve pain. The most common vaccine, Zostavax, is only marginally effective, protecting about half of adults over 60.

That changed in October, when an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a brand-new vaccine with a more than 90 percent efficacy rate.

Shingrix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is expected to be available as early as the end of November for $213, although insurance companies will probably not yet cover it.

Shingrex, shingles, shingles vaccine
Shingrix Logo.

In large, years-long international trials, Shingrix was shown to prevent shingles in 97 percent of adults in their 50s and 60s, and 91 percent of adults in their 70s and 80s. Side effects were minor and generally limited to soreness, headache, shivering and upset stomach.

“This vaccine has spectacular initial protection rates in every age group. The immune system of a 70- or 80-year-old responds as if the person were only 25 or 30,” Dr. William Schaffner, preventive disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told The New York Times.

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