About the shingles vaccine

Learn why this vaccine is important and who may be at risk.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful rash, which sometimes leads to long-term nerve pain. The rash often develops on the face or torso and can cause a burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away.

What causes shingles?

The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. After a person has had chickenpox, the virus lives in an inactive state in the body. The virus can become active again years later, leading to shingles. You can't catch shingles from another person; however, in rare cases a person can get chickenpox if exposed to someone with shingles. This can happen if the exposed person has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.

Who is at risk of getting shingles?

Anyone who has had chickenpox in the past can develop shingles. Those most at risk for getting shingles are adults 50 years and older, and individuals who are immunocompromised due to neurological disorders, certain infectious illnesses, and rheumatologic diseases. It is uncommon for shingles to affect children.

Is there a treatment for shingles?

Because the virus can’t be eliminated from the body, treatment for shingles includes taking medicines to shorten the length and severity of the illness and to help ease pain and control symptoms until the condition clears up. However, you can take preventive care measures by getting a shingles vaccine.

Recombinant zoster vaccine, also known as Shingrix, has been in use since 2017. Shingrix requires two injections, with the second dose given 2-6 months after the first. Due to greater effectiveness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends Shingrix vaccine and suggests those who received a different zoster vaccine (also known as Zostavax) in the past should be revaccinated with Shingrix for greater protection against shingles. As of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the United States.

Who should get the vaccine?

Adults who are 50 years and older should get the shingles vaccine. This includes people who already received a dose of the older shingles vaccine, Zostavax; have a history of shingles or other chronic medical conditions; do not have a known history of chickenpox; or have mild immune suppression. Please talk to your doctor if you have questions on whether or not you should be vaccinated.

Are there any side effects from the vaccine?

Common side effects from the vaccine include pain, redness, soreness, or swelling at the site of the injection, or other symptoms such as headache, muscle aches, fever, shivering, and fatigue. People who have one of these reactions after the first dose of Shingrix vaccine should still get the second dose. Serious side effects from the shingles vaccine are rare.

How do I get the vaccine?

If you are a Sharp Health Plan member (non-Medicare), you will need to contact your primary care physician first to ensure the shingles vaccine is right for you. A prescription may be required. You can contact your doctor’s office using the phone number on the front of your Sharp Health Plan member ID card or through your plan medical group’s patient portal, if applicable.

Is the vaccine covered by my insurance?

If you are a Sharp Health Plan member (non-Medicare), the shingles vaccine is a covered benefit for adults 50 and older when received from a provider or facility within your plan medical group. There is no member cost for covered preventive services.

If you are a Sharp Direct Advantage member (Medicare), the shingles vaccine is covered under your Part D benefits , so you can go to any in-network pharmacy to get the vaccine.