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kritiper's avatar

How old do you have to be to recieve a vaccination for shingles?

Asked by kritiper (19507points) February 19th, 2017

I was told the earliest you could receive the vaccine was at age 65. Why?

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29 Answers

chyna's avatar

I understood the age to be 60 before your insurance would pay for it. Before that age, you would have to pay for it yourself. I called a drug store and the cost was $230.00. Supposedly the majority of people that get shingles are over 60.
On an offshoot of this question, a doctor I work with told me that studies have shown that if you have had Bells Palsy in your lifetime, you are more likely to get shingles along with having had chicken pox.

JLeslie's avatar

The drug is approved for 50 years old and older if I remember correctly. It would be on the drug insert information.

The CDC, or some part of the medical establishment, recommends 60 years old I think? Your insurance might have different ages that they will pay for it.

You probably can get it younger than the recommended age if your doctor thinks it’s justified. Doctors write off label all the time for medications (so in this case off label would be under age 50 since the vaccine is approved for age 50) there might be some sort of standard practice for it to be given younger.

How old are you, and why do you want it now? Assuming you do.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I had it at 60.

My doctor told me it wasn’t 100% effective as a vaccine, so there is no guarantee.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s only about 50% effective. Although, it’s more than 50% for helping to prevent post herpetic neuralgia if you get an outbreak.

zenvelo's avatar

I got one when I was 56, by request, although the “guidelines” were to get it at age 60.

But I asked the Doctor about it, since a friend had an outbreak at age 49, and my older brother had an outbreak when he was 60. The doctor got it covered by the insurance company, but I am not sure what he said to get it approved.

kritiper's avatar

I was told that even if you were to pay for it yourself, and price was no option, insurance or no insurance, you COULD NOT get it below a certain age. It doesn’t matter if the vaccine would be effective or not. Can you get it at any age (at least, above 18 years)?

(A younger sister of mine has shingles, and she is only 50. I asked if she had a vaccine or some other shot and was told by another sister, who purports to know, that she couldn’t because she was too young.)

JLeslie's avatar

^^It’s approved by the FDA for age 50. Who told you you can’t get it? How old are you?

I’ve been getting shingles since my 20’s. More than one jelly here has had it in their 20’s, 30’s and/or 40’s.

kritiper's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you. That seems to be the best answer yet. Any others? I would like more opinions/answers.
(It’s not about whether I can get it or not, it’s about how old a person, any person, has to be to get one.)
@Rarebear Thanks for the site info but my computer and modem are too slow to pull that up. Care to tell me what it says on the matter??

Dutchess_III's avatar

I got one at 55. Insurance paid for it. Maybe it was because the doctor ordered it? I believe it’s 50 or older.

Rarebear's avatar

Here is the page cut and pasted.

What Everyone Should Know about Shingles Vaccine
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On this Page

Who Should Get Shingles Vaccine?
Who Should Not Get Shingles Vaccine?
What Are the Types of Shingles Vaccine?
How Well Does Shingles Vaccine Work?
What Are the Possible Side Effects of Shingles Vaccine?
How Can I Pay For Shingles Vaccine?
One of the Recommended Vaccines by Disease

Your risk of shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) increases as you get older. CDC recommends that people 60 years old and older get shingles vaccine to prevent shingles and PHN.

Shingles vaccine has been used since 2006. Zostavax® is the only shingles vaccine currently approved for use in the United States. This vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51% and PHN by 67%. It is given in one dose as a shot, and can be given in a doctor’s office or pharmacy.

Who Should Get Shingles Vaccine?
People 60 years of age or older should get shingles vaccine. They should get the vaccine whether or not they recall having had chickenpox, which is caused by the same virus as shingles. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans aged 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember getting the disease. There is no maximum age for getting shingles vaccine.

Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time you must wait after having shingles before receiving shingles vaccine, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your healthcare provider.

Shingles vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people aged 50 years and older. However, CDC does not have a recommendation for routine use of shingles vaccine in people 50 through 59 years old. Protection from shingles vaccine lasts about 5 years, so adults vaccinated before they are 60 years old might not be protected later in life when the risk for shingles and its complications are greatest. Adults 50 through 59 years who have questions about shingles vaccine should discuss the risks and benefits with a healthcare provider.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions about shingles vaccine. Shingles vaccine is available in doctor’s offices and pharmacies. To find doctor’s offices or pharmacies near you that offer the vaccine, visit Zostavax or HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

Who Should Not Get Shingles Vaccine?
Vaccine for Those 60 Years and Older

The Shingles Prevention Study involved individuals age 60 years and older and found the shingles vaccine significantly reduced disease in this age group. The vaccine is currently recommended for persons 60 years of age and older.

Some people should not get shingles vaccine:

A person who has ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
A person who has a weakened immune system because of:
HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids,
cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, or
cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Women who are or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least 4 weeks after getting shingles vaccine.
Someone with a minor acute illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But anyone with a moderate or severe acute illness should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.

This information was taken directly from the Shingles Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) dated 10/06/2009.

What Are the Types of Shingles Vaccine?
Zostavax® is only shingles vaccine currently approved for use in the United States. It is given in one dose as a shot, and can be given in a doctor’s office or pharmacy.

To find doctor’s offices or pharmacies near you that offer the vaccine, visit Zostavax or HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

For more information about the vaccine, visit Zostavax®.

How Well Does Shingles Vaccine Work?
Zostavax®, the shingles vaccine, reduced the risk of shingles by 51% and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67% based on a large study of more than 38,000 adults aged 60 years or older. Protection from shingles vaccine lasts about 5 years.

While the vaccine was most effective in people 60 through 69 years old, it also provides some protection for people 70 years old and older.

Adults vaccinated before age 60 years might not be protected later in life when the risk for shingles and its complications are greatest.

Top of Page
What Are the Possible Side Effects of Shingles Vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine.

Mild side effects of shingles vaccine:

Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching at the site of the injection (about 1 person in 3).
Headache (about 1 person in 70).
It is safe to be around infants and young children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems after you get the shingles vaccine. There is no documentation of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the shingles vaccine (which contains varicella zoster virus).

Some people who get the shingles vaccine will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the place where they were vaccinated. As a precaution, this rash should be covered until it disappears.

Like all vaccines, shingles vaccine is being closely monitored for unusual or severe problems by CDC and FDA.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9–1-1 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.

Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website, or by calling 1–800-822–7967.

The shingles vaccine does not contain thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury).

This information was taken directly from the Shingles Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) dated 10/06/2009.

For more information on possible side effects from vaccination, visit CDC’s Possible Side Effects from Vaccines page.

Top of Page
How Can I Pay For Shingles Vaccine?
There are several ways shingles vaccine may be paid for:


Medicare Part D plans cover the shingles vaccine, but there may be a cost to you depending on your plan. There may be a copay for the vaccine, or you may need to pay in full then get reimbursed for a certain amount.
Medicare Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine.

Medicaid may or may not cover the vaccine. Contact your insurer to find out.
Private health insurance

Most private health insurance plans cover the vaccine for people 60 years of age or older. Some plans cover the vaccine for people 50 through 59 years of age.
Vaccine assistance programs

Some pharmaceutical companies provide vaccines to eligible adults who cannot afford them. See more information on the patient assistance program that includes Zostavax® (shingles vaccine).
If you do not currently have health insurance, learn more about affordable health coverage options.

To find doctor’s offices or pharmacies near you that offer the vaccine, visit Zostavax or HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Have there been any studies regarding the vaccine efficacy for people who have had outbreaks already? Even better, people who have had multiple episodes? I once asked our ID jelly who used to be here, and he didn’t know of any. I don’t bother getting the shot, because it makes no sense to me that it would work for me, but a study would be interesting. The ID jelly agreed with my logic, although we both are just making guesses.

kritiper's avatar

@Rarebear Thanks for all of that. I glazed over it but really didn’t see an answer to my question, although there was some really great info in there.
I suppose my sister could get a shot while she has the outbreak, even at age 50, but it may or may not help her. And it may or may not help her avoid future attacks. I suppose a person could get it, at any age, provided a doctor said so. Would you agree? Anyone else like to add their opinion? Please?

Rarebear's avatar

Answer is 60

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper Was her outbreak very bad? Did she take the medicine to treat it?

kritiper's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t know. I can only assume that she has. The info was through this other sister and not direct communication because that sister (the one afflicted) and I are not on speaking terms anymore.
@Rarebear The answer is 60. The vaccine can be administrated under that age (down to age 50) if and only if a doctor says so. Correct?? (I like very specific answers!)

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper The general belief out there is shingles is always horrendous, but it might make you feel better that it’s not always very large areas or very painful. If you get it, there is no way to know what your episode will be like, but mine is usually an area of about 1.5 inches by 2 inches, and it’s not very painful, but it is extremely itchy.

The entire time I’m careful, which is annoying. I wash my hands a lot, and I don’t go where there are lots of young children. Only recently I started getting it on my face, the rash was even smaller in my face, about an inch by an inch, but it was just above my left eyebrow, so eyesight is a concern. I feel it a little at other points along the trigeminal nerve on the top of my head a small point on my cheek, but nothing extreme? It’s a little itch.

The medicine works pretty well, the outbreak lasts about 10–14 days now. The first time it was about a month! The doctor didn’t diagnose it correctly and gave me antibiotics. Another story for my medical mistake Q.

Anyway, it doesn’t have to be severe or devastating. The stories you hear are of course the worst ones, and the commercials are to sell vaccines.

Rarebear's avatar

@kritiper Just read the CDC page.

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper It’s very possible your doctor hasn’t read the information provided by @rarebear (which basically agrees with what I said if you don’t want to read the link) although the page also mentions that the vaccine is assumed to be effective for only 5 years (and again efficacy is only 50% to begin with). I hadn’t mentioned the 5 years. That’s why the recommendation for vaccination is age 60, because even though it’s approved for age 50, the rationale is you aren’t likely to get shingles before age 60, and so I’m guessing they worry if people get the shot at 50, they won’t bother at 60 to get another one, when they more likely need it. In my experience very few adults get repeat vaccinations. How long has it been since you had a tetanus shot? Or, pertussis, which is known to wane. Tetanus and pertussis van be given as a combo shot.

Back to your doctor, or the person who answers the phone at your insurance company, or the policy at your local Walgreens, they may not know it’s approved for age 50 (well a pharmacist would if they look it up) and they might only be going by the CDC recommendation. Recommendation and approval are two different things. Prescribing even younger than the approved age is another thing.

FDA approval only basically means it has been tested on the age group and is safe, or tested for a particular condition and us effective. That’s what I meant by on label or off label. Drugs are given to children for instance that have never been tested on children. It happens every day, and it is off label prescribing. It might be off label, but it’s standard practice, because doctors have been prescribing that drug regularly for years to that age group, or even prescribed for a condition not listed on the “label.”

Many doctors are not aware of what’s on label or off or possible side effects etc.for various drugs. They might for some but not others. Good doctors look things up like @Rarebear. Now, the new electronic prescription dohickeys help prevent prescription mistakes.

JLeslie's avatar

By the way, my parents have never had shingles. My sister, who is 2.5 years younger than me, has never had shingles. I’m the only one.

kritiper's avatar

@Rarebear I read it twice.

JLeslie's avatar

My feeling is if getting shingles doesn’t increase my immunity I don’t see how the shot will do any better. That’s why I don’t get the vaccine.

The common wisdom is that we will see increased shingles cases in America, because we now vaccinate kids for chicken pox. This is just a hypothesis among scientists as far as I know, I don’t think it’s proven. The belief is kids with chicken pox used to boost adults immunity to varicella.

This idea again reinforces my personal belief that the vaccine won’t help people like me who get reoccurring outbreaks, or even someone who had a recent outbreak.

Having said all of that, I don’t think the mechanism is completely understood, and as I said, as far as I know there aren’t any specific studies looking at people who have already had an outbreak and the vaccine.

There are countries that don’t vaccinate children for chicken pox, it would be interesting to know their shingles rate. I guess we have old stats we can look at prior to the vaccine also.

kritiper's avatar

So, theoretically, you won’t get the vaccine until at least 50 because it doesn’t usually show up until one is at least 60. I suppose a doctor wouldn’t recommend it at a earlier age because there would be no reason for it. But suppose there was a reason for it. Will no one give you one at say, 20? or 30??? Is it impossible to have one administrated at an age of less than 50?
(You see, that was the statement my sister made: she SWEARS (practically) that you COULD NOT get one at an earlier age. So I want to know if it is indeed true.) (She’s like that!)
I really appreciate all of your answers so please don’t get pissed at me!

chyna's avatar

According to my pharmacy, yes you can go to pharmacy (in my area) and get a shingles’s vaccine but under 60 you will have to pay for it. I said this exact same thing way up in the very first answer. I just now called a pharmacy and again confirmed that. No prescription is necessary.

JLeslie's avatar

If you get it before age 50 it is off label and I’m assuming not standard practice, so if the person gets harmed or dies it opens the doctor up for lawsuits.

Haven’t you ever heard of law suits where the victim is saying the doctor gave a prescription to treat something the drug is not approved for, or at a dose not approved, and everyone watching the news report is so horrified? The truth is doctors do this every day, and most times it’s just fine and on purpose and standard practice for the medication.

My doctor just prescribed me Augmentin 875 bid for 21 days. It’s not on the label as far as I know for my diagnosis, and she is prescribing without cultures. It is usually prescribed 7 days, sometimes 10. I’m only going to take it 14 days we decided, still a long time, and I’m taking two others consecutively. There is some voodoo in the prescribing.

Long story short, you probably can find a doctor who will give the shot before age 50, but I think they take a legal risk.

chyna's avatar

Prescription is not necessary.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna But, it looks like a doctor is necessary if you want it before age 50.

kritiper's avatar

@chyna and @JLeslie I think you have narrowed it down pretty good. Yes, a prescription isn’t necessary, but that wasn’t the question. So a doctor is necessary, perhaps, if a person wanted to get one before 50. And the question wasn’t about lawsuits. So what we have narrowed it down to seems to be this: IF a doctor can be found to give you the vaccine before age 50, any age before 50, and you are willing to pay the price, any price, it can be done. No problem. No matter what the results could be.
I guess I’m just not convincingly convinced. I may just have to ask my own pharmacist the next time I’m in the drugstore… Unless, of course someone can come up with a real solid answer. And, as I said before, I really REALLY appreciate your answers on this.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder if you do a varicella titer if it indicates how likely you are to get shingles? I’m curious about this for myself now that I’m thinking about it. Like are titers low or high in people right before an outbreak? I’m guessing low, but that could be completely wrong. Then you could evaluate your risk and it’s probably not very expensive. I have no idea if this has been studied, but I do know varicella titer exists and I’m pretty sure it’s fairly accurate. Some titer tests are not very accurate, like pertussis. Women who are fertility patients often have rubella titers done. I have a tetanus titer done every so often. I had a bad reaction to a tetanus shot. Anyway, if you can’t get the vaccine, maybe a titer would help you feel better, that is if medical science does know what numbers make people more vulnerable to shingles.

I’m a little vaccine adverse. Not anti-vaccine, I don’t want that to be confused. I believe in vaccinating children and I would get a vaccine if I feel the risk reward is in the right balance. My risk reward would be a little different than a lot of doctors.

Regarding the pharmacy, the big national pharmacies have their rules and guidelines and I’m sure they won’t break them.

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