Senior man suffering from a heart attack, pain, at home
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Adults aged 50 and older are protected against shingles (herpes zoster) for at least 10 years after receiving the vaccine Shingrix, according to new data from drugmaker GSK.

Interim data from ongoing clinical trials demonstrated overall efficacy of more than 80% over a follow-up period of approximately six to 10 years after initial vaccination, GSK reported. Efficacy results were similar to those in earlier trials, but with evidence of longer duration. There were no new safety concerns during that time, the company added.

Shingrix is the only shingles vaccine currently available and approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. An older and less effective drug, Zostavax, was discontinued for use or sale in the U.S. in 2020.

Painful neuralgia 

Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus, which remains dormant after a bout with chicken pox but can become active again in later life as a viral infection of the nerves. The disease can result in a painful rash of small blisters anywhere on the body. After the rash clears up, some patients go on to develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) where the rash was located. PHN causes pain that can last for months.

Nearly 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime, typically in older age, according to the CDC. In addition, about 10% to 18% of people who get shingles will experience PHN, which is the most common complication from the disease.

Guidance for use

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults aged 50 and older receive Shingrix to prevent the emergence of shingles and reducing the disease’s severity if it does develop. Vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and PHN, it said.

The CDC’s guidance for healthcare providers states that adults aged 50 years and older, or those aged 19 years and older with weakened immune systems receive two doses of the vaccine separated by two to six months. Qualified patients can receive the vaccine whether or not they’ve previously had shingles or have had a prior dose of Zostavax. 

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