Understanding the shingles vaccine

National demand for the shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is greater than the current supply.
As a result, members may experience shortages.

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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 shingles are ages 50 and above, as well as individuals who are immunocompromised due to neurological disorders, certain infectious illnesses, and rheumatologic diseases. It is uncommon for shingles to affect children.


Is shingles dangerous?

Shingles usually isn't dangerous and will clear up on its own. In most cases, the pain from shingles will get better when the rash starts to heal.


Is there a treatment for shingles?

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

There are two vaccines that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent shingles in the United States. Zoster vaccine (also known as Zostavax) has been in use since 2006. Zostavax vaccine is a one-time injection. Recombinant zoster vaccine (also known as Shingrix), has been in use since 2017. Shingrix requires 2 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 (ACIP) now recommends Shingrix vaccine over Zostavax, and suggests those who received Zostavax in the past should be revaccinated with Shingrix for greater protection against shingles.


Who should get the vaccine?

You can get a shingles vaccine if you are age 50 years or older. This includes people who have already had 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 vaccine can still get the second dose. Serious side effects from the shingles vaccine are rare.


How long does protection last?

For most people, the vaccine protects for at least four years; however, experts predict that protection will last much longer. At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn't recommend patients receive any booster dose after the first two doses.


How do I get the vaccine?

There is currently a national shortage of the shingles vaccine, Shingrix. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about current inventory, and about being notified through a call list. Certain websites such as the Shingrix vaccine locator and HealthMap vaccine finder can also help you search for stock of the vaccine online. However, these sites may not carry the most up-to-date information. If you find a location that has the vaccine, make sure that it is within your plan medical group (or the designated group of doctors, hospitals and urgent care centers that you can access in your network) to ensure coverage. You can do that by visiting our Find a Doctor or Location webpage, or by contacting Customer Care at customer.service@sharp.com or 1-800-359-2002.


Why is the shortage happening now?

The shortage is a result of the accelerated adoption of the vaccine, which has led to an unprecedented level of demand. The company that manufactures the vaccine is currently working on releasing significantly more doses to better keep up with the increasing demand.


What should I do if I’ve already received my first dose of the Shingrix vaccine?

While the second dose of the Shingrix vaccine is recommended 2-6 months after the first dose, you can receive the second dose later if needed. You won’t need to restart the vaccine series if you wait longer than six months to get your second dose.


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 over 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 Health Plan Medicare member, the shingles vaccine is covered under your Part D benefits, so you can go to any pharmacy to get the vaccine. Please check the Drug List to determine your copayment.