This vaccine protects against the development of shingles, an infection that causes a painful rash. The pain may remain for months after the rash goes away.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox, the virus can become active again years later. When the virus reactivates, it causes the rash and other symptoms associated with shingles.
One complication of shingles is chronic nerve pain at the site of the rash, even if the rash has healed. This pain is known as postherpetic neuralgia, which can affect a person's quality of life. Another complication is the development of scar tissue after the rash has healed.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the shingles vaccine for adults ages 60 and older. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the vaccine for people ages 50 through 59. However, it is not currently a recommended immunization for adults in that age group.) You should not get the vaccine if you:
The vaccine may be postponed if you have a fever or a moderate to severe acute illness.
Medicare usually does not cover the cost of shingles vaccine.
Contact your health care provider if you are ages 60 and older and have questions about the shingles vaccine. Here is a list of questions you can ask during your appointment.
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