Consumer Reports: Should you get a shingles vaccine early?

EMBED </>More Videos

Nearly one in three Americans will experience a painful and debilitating outbreak of shingles, a rash caused by the same virus that is responsible for chickenpox. (WLS)

Nearly one in three Americans will experience a painful and debilitating outbreak of shingles, a rash caused by the same virus that is responsible for chickenpox.

Consumer Reports says there is a vaccine that is usually given at 60 years of age or older. But in some instances, if you are between 50 and 59 you could consider asking your doctor about getting the vaccine earlier.

Laura Rice, a reading specialist, had shingles as a young adult and said the experience was a nightmare.

"You're like, couldn't resist itching it and then it hurt so much. It hurt like twice as much. You were like, 'Oh why did I do that?'" Rice said.

"If you've had chickenpox as a kid, the virus can lie dormant for years. Then as you get older that virus can break out as a case of shingles," Consumer Reports Medical Advisor Dr. Marvin Lipman said.

A commercial for the vaccine is aimed primarily at the growing number of baby boomers over 60 who due to their age will suffer disproportionately from shingles. The immune system weakens over time, which means it's harder to fight the virus. Keep in mind the protection of the one-time vaccine lasts only about 5 years.

"So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended use of the vaccine in people over the age of 60. But under certain circumstances, it is perfectly permissible to use the vaccine in people as young as 50," Lipman said.

For instance, the vaccine can be given earlier than age 60 if there is chronic pain or any other condition that would make it more difficult to tolerate a shingles outbreak and the possible nerve pain that can follow.

But don't assume if you've already had an outbreak, as Laura has, you don't need the vaccine. It's uncommon, but shingles can strike again. Now that she's over 50, Laura's going to ask her doctor about the vaccine.

Check your insurance plan to see if the cost of the shingles vaccine will be covered. In many instances, including under Medicare, it may not be or only partially. Getting the shot at a pharmacy might be somewhat less expensive, though you'll still need a prescription.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org

Related Topics:
healthconsumer reportsvaccinesvirus

Load Comments