**Medicare Coverage for the Shingles Vaccine**
The shingles vaccine is free for most Medicare beneficiaries. According to last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, most insured patients, including those with Medicare, do not have any out-of-pocket costs for shingles vaccines such as deductibles or co-pays.
**What is Shingles?**
Shingles is a painful condition that occurs more commonly in older adults. It is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which remains in the body after a previous episode of chickenpox. The rash typically develops on one side of the face or body and consists of blisters that scab over in seven to 10 days. Other symptoms may include headache, chills, upset stomach, and in some cases, vision loss if it affects the eye.
**What is the Shingles Vaccine?**
The CDC currently recommends the Shingrix vaccine as the most effective option for preventing shingles and its related complications. This vaccine works by introducing harmless proteins from the shingles virus into the body, stimulating the immune system to defend against the virus. It is over 90% effective and remains effective after four years with two doses.
**Who Needs the Shingles Vaccine?**
The CDC recommends all adults age 50 and older to get two doses of the Shingrix vaccine. Even if individuals have never had shingles before, getting vaccinated can help lessen the severity and duration of an outbreak should it occur. It is especially important for individuals who have had the Zostavax vaccine in the past or are unsure if they have had chickenpox.
**Preventing Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN)**
One of the advantages of getting the shingles vaccine is preventing post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN is a common complication of shingles and can cause long-lasting pain in the area where the shingles rash developed. It is more likely to occur in older individuals, with a prevalence of 20% among those over age 50 and 35% among those over age 80. By getting vaccinated, Medicare beneficiaries can avoid the pain of PHN and the costs associated with treating this complication.
**Side Effects of the Shingrix Shingles Vaccine**
Like any vaccine, the Shingrix vaccine may cause side effects. However, these side effects are more common in younger individuals. Most patients experience a sore arm with mild or moderate pain, as well as redness and swelling at the injection site. Some patients may also experience side effects such as tiredness, muscle pain, headache, fever, stomach pain, or nausea that may last for a couple of days.
Overall, the shingles vaccine is an important preventative measure for older adults, providing protection against shingles and its complications. Medicare beneficiaries can take advantage of the free coverage for the vaccine to safeguard their health and well-being.