Shingles or a Shot: Which Would You Rather Have?Posted by Medicare Made Clear
If you’re age 60 or over, you may want to get the shingles shot. Nearly one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime.1 Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk of getting the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 99 percent of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox.2 So if you’re 40 or older, you’ve probably had chickenpox and you may be at risk for getting shingles.
In many cases, the effects of shingles are much more severe for older adults than they are for younger people who get the disease. Complications may include severe pain (post-herpetic neuralgia) that can last for months or years even after the rash is gone, blindness, hearing problems, brain inflammation, even death.
The shingles vaccine (Zostavax®) is a one-time vaccination. It is recommended for adults ages 60 and older to help in the prevention of getting the disease. The vaccine is not used to treat an active case of shingles. If you’ve had shingles before, you can still get the vaccine to help from getting the disease again. According to the CDC, in a clinical trial, Zostavax reduced the risk of shingles in adults ages 60 and older by 51 percent and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia (ongoing, severe pain) by 67 percent.
People who are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or have allergies to certain components of the vaccine should talk to their health care provider to find out if the vaccine is safe for them.
The shingles vaccine is available in a variety of locations, such as pharmacies, doctors’ offices and community health clinics.
Medicare Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine, but most Medicare Part D plans do. Depending on your Part D plan, you may have to pay some of the cost of the vaccine or you may have to pay for the vaccine in full and get reimbursed later. Many private health insurance plans cover the vaccine for people 60 years of age or older. A few plans may even cover the vaccine for people 50 to 59 years of age. If you want the vaccine but your plan does not cover the cost, you can pay for it yourself out of pocket. Check with your plan to find out if you’re covered.
Talk to your doctor if you have questions about the vaccine or to find out if it’s right for you.
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.
About Shingles: Learn the symptoms, how it spreads, treatment and prevention—CDC.gov
Shingles: Should I Get Vaccinated?: MedicareMadeClear.com
1 Shingles (Herpes Zoster), CDC.gov, May, 1, 2014
2 Shingles Vaccination: What You Need to Know, CDC.gov, November 8, 2013