• By Deborah Balzer

Infectious Diseases A-Z: New shingles vaccine for everyone over age 50

January 15, 2018

a medical illustration of shingles"In excess of 30 percent of all of us are going to develop shingles sometime in our life," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. That's why the medical community is so hopeful about a new shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine called Shingrix that will be available soon in the U.S. Dr. Poland says the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective.

“In studies so far, it's as good as any vaccine that we’ve ever seen and I think will protect people at extremely high rates in preventing shingles." 

Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland explains new shingles vaccine.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites are in the downloads.

Dr. Poland says the vaccine – that he helped provide advice on – is given in a two-dose series. "It is recommended for everybody age 50 and above, regardless of whether they had shingles in the past, regardless of whether they had the older shingles vaccine."

"Shingles occurs because you got chickenpox as a kid," says Dr. Poland. "When you get chickenpox, that virus never leaves your body. You are forever infected with it. And, then, what happens is under stress, with certain medical conditions, immunosuppression, age, etc., your immunity starts to drop. And that virus reactivates, causing a painful rash that develops in a band shape, for example, around the chest or on the face. And it can be a miserable disease."

Symptoms of shingles include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • Itching

Shingrix is an adjuvanted type of inactivated vaccine, meaning there is no live virus in it. It has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine will be available to adults 50 years and older later in January or February.

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