Dispensing Knowledge

The Scoop on SHINGRIX

Shingles. You have probably heard about it from a friend or family member who has suffered the painful rash, or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. When you have chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in your body and can be reactivated by stress or illness to cause shingles later in life. Shingles is known to initially cause pain in one area of the body, then an itchy, red rash develops. After this rash heals, the pain can continue for weeks to years. It is important to seek medical attention early in the course of this viral illness as early treatment can help to prevent transmission to your loved ones, reduce pain, and help to prevent the rash from worsening.

You may also have heard about ZOSTAVAX, the vaccine that you can get to reduce your risk of shingles, and perhaps you have received it; but have you heard of the new vaccine, SHINGRIX?

SHINGRIX is an adjuvanted, inactive vaccine. An “adjuvant” is a substance that is added to a vaccine to boost our body’s response to vaccine – this means that it helps increase how well the vaccine works. “Inactive” means that the virus in the vaccine is not able to cause shingles. Here are five things you should know about SHINGRIX.

1. How well does it work? SHINGRIX can reduce the risk of developing shingles by about 90 percent in people 50 years and older. On the other hand, the older vaccine, ZOSTAVAX, has been shown to reduce the risk of shingles by about 50 percent, and the protection declines over time since the injection.

2. How many shots do I need? SHINGRIX requires two injections that are separated by 2-6 months. ZOSTAVAX requires only one injection.

3. Are there any side effects that I should know about? With SHINGRIX, the most common side effect that you will most likely experience is pain where the injection was given. You may also experience some muscle pain, feeling tired and a headache.

4. How much does it cost? SHINGRIX is not covered under Ontario Drug Benefit or Indian Affairs. If you have additional insurance, a portion or all of the cost may be covered. The cost of SHINGRIX is approximately $154/vaccine – coming to a total of approximately $308 for both vaccines required for the two shot series. In contrast, ZOSTAVAX is covered by Ontario Drug Benefit for those 65-70 years of age. The cost is approximately $190 for the vaccine.

5. I have already received ZOSTAVAX, should I get SHINGRIX? There are no current Canadian recommendations. If you have received ZOSTAVAX more than five years ago, you can ask your doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist for more information.

Developing shingles can be devastating. While neither of these vaccines are 100 percent effective, they can both be used to help reduce your risk of developing shingles and the pain that comes with it.