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 In Ask an Expert, Internal Medicine, Pulse Blog

Q: Do I need the new shingles vaccine if I already had the old one?

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles later in life. Nearly everyone over age 40 is at risk. More than 99 percent of Americans age 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember getting the disease.

Shingles is a reactivation of the dormant virus that remains in your body after chickenpox. Shingles appears as small blisters on one side of the body and is extremely painful. An outbreak often occurs when you feel sick or stressed or have a lowered immune system. It’s also common: One in three people will suffer from shingles. I always recommend that if someone can get vaccinated, they should.

The FDA approved a new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, last year, and clinical studies show that it’s far more effective than the current version. While the old vaccine is 51 percent effective, the new one is up to 97 effective.

The CDC is recommending that adults who received the old vaccine get revaccinated because the new one works so much better. Adults over age 50 who haven’t been vaccinated against shingles yet should also receive the vaccine, which is administered in two doses. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine.

Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time you must wait after having shingles before getting vaccinated, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has disappeared first.

Younger adults who received the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine as part of their childhood immunizations should already be protected against shingles.

Amanda Levchuk, FNP at Vancouver Clinic