| Wed, Aug 12, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Medical Professionals Say Pricey Shingles Vaccine is Worth the Cost

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

shingles vaccineYou might expect a big bill when it comes to replacing shingles on your roof, but you may be surprised by the cost to protect against another kind of shingles.

The vaccine that protects against the often-painful shingles virus can be pricey.

Online Walgreens lists the price at $224.99, or about seven times the cost of the flu shot.

That might seem like a lot, but UnitedHealthcare Chief Nursing Officer Chandra Torgerson says the vaccine is worth it.

She says, “It can prevent an outbreak of shingles which also helps you be healthier, more active and it saves money.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. In 2013, a CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices found the vaccine was cost effective.1 It says the vaccine reduced the number of hospital stays and lost work hours.

The CDC says studies estimate the cost of treating shingles and its complications range from at least $566 million to $1.7 billion each year. 1,2 

That breaks down to $525 per person for doctor’s visits and medicine, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

That is quite a bit more than the $225 total cost Walgreens lists for the vaccine.

The shingles vaccine is covered under Medicare Part D, not Part B like the flu shot or other common vaccines. That means it’s considered a prescription drug, and you may be responsible for a copay.

An NPR report on a study from the Government Accountability Office says Medicare beneficiaries paid $57 on average and as much as $195 in cost sharing for the shingles vaccine in 2009.

So far the Food and Drug Administration has only approved a shingles vaccine from Merck. However Reuters reports a new vaccine – now undergoing clinical trials – may reduce the risk of shingles by 97 percent. Reuters did not speculate if adding a second option might drive down costs.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


1Ismael Ortega-Sanchez, October 2013. CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Decision and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Herepes Zoster Vaccination in Adults 50 Years of Age and Older

2Anita Soni, PhD, and Steven C. Hill, PhD, December 2007. AHRQ Statistical Brief #194: Average Annual Health Care Use and Expenses for Shingles among the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2003-2005

3U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2011 Report to Congress. Medicare: Many Factors, Including Administrative Challenges, Affect Access to Part D Vaccinations


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