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Shingles vaccine: What you need to know

Some people younger than 60 may need shingles vaccine

SAN ANTONIO – Nearly 1 in 3 Americans will experience a painful and debilitating outbreak of the shingles. And while there is a vaccine, it’s usually given to people after age 60. But some people are getting it sooner.

If you’ve had chickenpox, you may be prone to an outbreak of shingles.

Laura Rice had shingles as a young adult. She said it was a nightmare.

“You, like, couldn’t resist itching it and then it hurt so much. It hurt like twice as much,” she said.

“If you’ve had chickenpox as a kid, the virus can lie dormant for years, and then as you get older, that virus can break out as a case of shingles,” said Dr. Marvin Lipman, Consumer Reports’ medical advisor.

Vaccines are aimed primarily at Baby Boomers over 60 who, due to their age, will suffer disproportionately from shingles. The immune system weakens over time, which means it’s harder to fight the virus.

The protection of the one-time vaccine lasts only about five years.

“So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended use of the vaccine in people over the age of 60, but under certain circumstances, it is perfectly permissible to use the vaccine in people as young as 50,” Lipman said.

The vaccine could be given earlier than 60 if there is chronic pain or a condition that would make it more difficult to tolerate a shingles outbreak and the possible nerve pain that could follow.

If you’ve already had an outbreak, you may still need the vaccine. It’s uncommon, but shingles can strike again.

People can check their insurance plan to see if the cost of the vaccine is covered. Getting a shot at a pharmacy may cost less, but you still need a prescription for it.

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