CDC Panel Okays New Shingles Vaccine for People Over 50

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new vaccine to prevent shingles in people over 50. Now, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending the new shingles vaccine over an older vaccine considered to be less effective. Zostavax, the older vaccine, had been the only one on the market for more than a decade and was recommended for people over 60.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also said that adults who have received Zostavax should get the new vaccine, called Shingrix. Final endorsement of the CDC recommendation is expected to take a couple of months. Insurance companies also have to approve coverage for the vaccine.

About one in three people in the United States – one million people per year – will contract shingles, according to the CDC. The viral infection is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (the varicella-zoster virus) and can result in a painful rash, lasting nerve damage, and serious complications. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue and can reactivate as shingles years later. Zostavax lowered risk for developing shingles by 51 percent and nerve pain by 67 percent. In clinical trials, Shingrix, which is administered in two doses, was about 98 percent effective for the first year and about 85 percent effective over three years.