Go and get the new shingles vaccine: it works

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/16/shingrix.html


In the US, you cannot just go and get it. Unlike flu shots, pharmacies are not allowed to administer it unless one is over age 60. You can get a doctor to prescribe it for you, but, then you’re stuck paying for the doctor visit and, in some cases, the vaccine as well as some insurers won’t pay for it for those under 60 who do not have demonstrable medial need. The cost for one dose in the US is about $350 plus sales tax.


I already made a note to get it from my doctor after I turn 50. My great uncle was afflicted with shingles (including around his eyes), and after witnessing it for myself it’s a misery I would prefer to avoid.


Last week, my internist told me she doesn’t yet have it and is waiting for a pharma rep to come sell her some. She also wants to see the CDC guidelines, which are not yet out.

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As somebody who had a bout of shingles in my early 30s, I’m just happy that I haven’t had it since.


I got shingles at age 37, so I have anti-bodies for another 30 years or so. But it is not a pleasant experience. I just had one little patch along my left third rib, and it was like someone was grinding crushed glass into me for a good five weeks. Some folks get this in their eyes or mouth or all over and I can’t imagine.


My wife, who’s in her 40s, was told she was “too young” to get the vaccine despite HAVING AN ACTIVE SHINGLES OUTBREAK AT THE TIME SHE ASKED FOR IT. This is what healthcare in in the US.


Pharmacist here: Shingrix is not yet available in pharmacies. GSK, the manufacturer, has said that it should become available by the end of this month or mid December.

Cory, thank you for the endorsement of this vaccine. You are right, the data does show FANTASTIC immunity among all age groups, with relatively few side effects.

I should add that the CDC advisory committee on immunization practices has made a recommendation on this vaccine: 1) They recommend it for folks age 50 or up (unlike the previous vaccine, Zostavax, which they recommended in 60+ year olds). 2) They recommend Shingrix even if you’ve previously had a dose of Zostavax and 3) in a 8-7 vote, they prefer Shingrix over Zostavax.


You said it. After having a terrible case of chickenpox morph into shingles at the age of 14, I NEVER wanna experience that again.


I wonder if that means those of us between 50-60 will be eligible for the vaccine now?


While shingles cases have been increasing for years, most papers still cite 1-in-3 chances of presenting in adults over 50. Where does “nearly every person who lives to 80” come from? Also, “notable lack of downsides” seems wrong – “Side effects such as pain or swelling at the injection site, or muscle aches or fatigue were common in clinical trials,” [Dr. Kathleen Dooling of CDC] said. “While not harmful to health, about 17 percent of people had symptoms that were severe enough to prevent their normal activities for one to two days.” (And apparently you face this risk of discomfort twice, as the $280 regime is implemented as two injections.)

(Also, “Shingrix” – somewhere a sci-fi writer is weeping…“Dammit, that was gonna be the name of a pidgeon language/trade koine in my next story; thanks, GSK!” ; -)


Is Shingrix significantly more effective? Zostavax only reduced the risk of shingles by 51%, per the CDC, and lasts about five years.

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pretty much, yeah. It means that the CDC thinks you should, and usually insurance companies will cover what CDC says to pay for. Since 50-60 year olds (unlike 65+ year olds) are generally covered under their employer, it may be very employer specific as to whether it’s covered. All Medicare Part D plans for those over 65 will be required to cover it though.

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I’ve never had shingles, but based on what I’ve seen other people go through, I’m totally onboard with getting vaccinated.

I probably wouldn’t give it to my kids, though, because I’m fairly paranoid about medicines. As far as I know, shingles has never killed anyone directly, although it’s been pretty strongly implicated in causing strokes and heart attacks in old people with pre-existing conditions. Presumably because it’s so bloody painful.


Yes it is significantly more effective. It showed >90% risk reduction in every trial I’ve read. In one trial, it had a 97% risk reduction. It’s a more durable immune response as well: it showed efficacy in 88% of people after 4 years.

Compare this to Zostavax, which performed as high as 70% risk reduction in trials, but the effect was nearly nil (4% protected) at 8 years post vaccination.

Other factoids
Shingrix: 2 doses 2-6 months apart vs. Zostavax is a single dose
Shingrix is a killed, adjuvanted vaccine vs. Zostavax is a live virus vaccine (meaning it could CAUSE shingles in rare cases)


On the fence about a shingles? Read Harvey Pekar’s horrific account of having them in “Our Cancer Year.”

It made me force my doc to write a script even though I was “only” 51.


To be fair, a vaccine is fairly worthless against an active infection.


My doctor insisted that I needed this, even though I’ve never had chickenpox. If you don’t know your medical history you might get something you don’t need and didn’t want. This is also healthcare in the US.


This sounds like someone commenting on a battle between an orc chieftain and a minor demon.


But all you need to get rid of shingles is Vitamin A and the right essential oils, according to another parent at my kid’s music class the other week. I don’t sit by her anymore.