This month, KUTV’s Ask the Expert focused on vaccinations for all ages. The monthly event had interviews throughout the day with Intermountain Healthcare caregivers and community partners. Viewers are able to call or send in questions for the caregivers to answer.
Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director for community health and prevention, talked about the new shingles vaccine that was released a few months ago.
“If you’re a senior then you must likely heard about the old shingles vaccine – which is recommended for people 60 and above. There is a new vaccine that has come out which is much more effective,” said Dr. Sheffield.
Shingles is started by the varicella-zoster virus which also causes chicken pox. If you have ever had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body. Years later, it can develop into a strong, painful rash on the body. It can also produce flu-like symptoms, harm eyesight, cause vertigo, and in some cases, nerve damage, and even death. One in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime.
While anyone can develop shingles, seniors are at the most risk because of a less robust immune system. Recommendations for the new vaccine suggest everyone over age 50 should be vaccinated. The new vaccine – called Shingrix -- cuts the risk down considerably.
“The great thing about this vaccine is that the old one reduced your risk by about half. This one almost wipes out your risk of shingles – it’s a high 90 percent,” Dr. Sheffield said. “It has a whole new added technology that makes it work better in alerting your immune system to protect yourself.”
Due to the new vaccines extra help in reducing shingles risks, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says everyone over the ages of 50 should receive Shingrix, even if you have receive the older vaccine – Zostavax – in the past. The new non-live vaccine is given in a two shot series.
The vaccine is available at most pharmacies, doctor’s offices and local health departments, but it is suggested you call ahead to ask due to increased demand for the vaccine.
“Your commercial health insurance covers it for ages 50-64. Medicare does not for the Medicare Part B, so you really want to get in before your 65,” Dr. Sheffield said.