The shingles shot … is it right for you?

women being given vaccination

Three of my sisters and my mother-in-law have endured shingles, with its blistering rash and intense nerve pain. All advised me to “get the shot” as soon as it was covered by insurance based on my age.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Zostavax vaccine to help prevent shingles in people as young as age 50, I thought it was my cue to get the shot. Then I learned that my health insurance plan doesn’t cover the vaccine until age 55.

I was in shingles limbo. I had chickenpox as a child, which means the virus that causes shingles is lying dormant in my body. Would it stay dormant until my 55th birthday? It was a gamble I was unwilling to take.

I discussed the vaccine with my primary care physician and decided to get the shot and pay for it out of pocket. It was pricey, around $300 at that time, and the paperwork that came with it explained that it doesn’t always prevent shingles. Still, I decided it was my best “shot” to avoid the pain others I know had experienced. Plus, once you have had shingles, it can recur, so I rationalized that I could be saving myself more than one round of future medical bills.

According to the FDA, shingles affects at least 1 million people of all ages in the United States each year. The risks increase with age and the older you are at onset, the more severe the effects typically are.

To help prevent shingles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the Zostavax vaccine for people age 60 and older. However, the vaccine is approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration for people as young as 50.

The CDC estimates that nearly 1 out of 3 people in America will develop shingles. The vaccine is a tool to help prevent, not treat, shingles. If you already have shingles or that lingering post-shingles nerve pain, the shot won’t help.

It is wise to discuss the shingles vaccination with your health care provider, and check with your health insurance plan provider to see if the cost is covered.


Norton Medical Group

With nearly 600 medical providers at more than 100 locations in Greater Louisville, Norton Medical Group provides access to the largest network of primary and specialty care providers in our area. When you have a cold, we have a physician for you. When you need a preventive screening, we have a physician for you. Talk to your primarycare physican about the shingles vaccines to see if it right for you.