Back to Top Skip to main content

For healthy older adults, new shingles vaccine is worth the wait

A pharmacist prepares a dose of the shingles vaccine to be administered at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's Town Center Pharmacy, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager) A pharmacist prepares a dose of the shingles vaccine to be administered at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's Town Center Pharmacy, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager)

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Availability of the new shingles vaccine is improving across the Military Health System, according to Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare. The vaccine, Shingrix, is recommended for healthy adults 50 and older to prevent the painful skin rash that can have debilitating long-term effects for older people.

Shingrix was licensed in late 2017. "Supplies are still limited nationwide because of the overwhelming demand," said Army Lt. Col. Christopher Ellison, deputy director of operations for the DHA's Immunization Healthcare Division.

"But availability to the Department of Defense has improved from a year ago and continues to get better," he said, adding that beneficiaries should contact their local MTF to confirm supplies. "Now is the time to get your shingles immunization."

Who’s at risk for getting shingles? "Anyone who’s had the chickenpox,” said retired Air Force Col. David Hrncir, an allergist-immunologist at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

A virus called varicella zoster causes shingles. It’s the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox clears, the virus stays dormant in the body. The virus may reactivate many years later as shingles. It's not clear what causes this eruption, said Hrncir, who's also medical director of Central Region Vaccine Safety Hub, Immunization Healthcare Division.

According to medical literature, Hrncir said, “Anywhere from 90 to 99 percent of people now over the age of 40 had chickenpox, before there was a chickenpox vaccine. About one-third will get shingles at some point in their lives, if they’re not protected.”

Some people under age 50 get shingles, Hrncir said. But the risk of contracting the illness increases continually after age 50. Immunization before age 50 results in decreased protection during ages when the risk of contracting shingles is the highest, he said. That's why early immunization generally is not recommended.

An earlier shingles vaccine was introduced in 2006. That vaccine was for people 60 and older when it first came out. Further, it was only about 70 percent effective in offering full protection against the virus, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers recommendations about people who should not get the new vaccine.

“Those who had the old vaccine will benefit from getting the new one,” Hrncir said. “Also, shingles can recur. So even if you’ve already had shingles, get the new vaccine.”

Retired Air Force Col. Scott Coale said he plans on getting the Shingrix vaccine. He came down with shingles in the fall of 2015, when he was in his mid-50s. His lower back started hurting before any rash appeared. Very quickly, he said, it became "the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced."

Shingles usually develops as a stripe across one side of the body or face, according to the CDC. People may feel pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash occurs a few days before it actually appears, the CDC said. Other symptoms may include fever, headaches, and chills.

A few days after the rash appears, it turns into fluid-filled blisters. They usually scab over after a week or 10 days, and then the scabs clear up a couple of weeks after that, Hrncir said.

Coale said his symptoms lasted for a few weeks but luckily, he's had no lingering issues. For some shingles patients, however, the pain may persist even after the rash clears.

“The older you are when you get shingles, the more likely it is you’ll develop post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN, and have longer-lasting and severe pain,” Hrncir said. “The pain is not easily treated. So you’re left with constant pain that can significantly affect quality of life.”

The new vaccine is a two-dose series, with the second dose administered anywhere from two to six months after the first. A majority of patients have reported side effects for two or three days after vaccination, Hrncir said. They include headaches, fatigue, and nausea. The CDC recommends patients talk with their providers about possible side effects.

Learn more about TRICARE coverage of the shingles vaccine.

You also may be interested in...

Absolute and Relative Morbidity Burdens Attributable to Various Illnesses and Injuries, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016

Infographic
6/19/2017
Did you know  … ? In 2016, essential hypertension accounted for 52,586 encounters for health care among 29,612 active component service members in the U.S. Armed Forces. Of all cardiovascular diseases, essential hypertension is by far the most common specific condition diagnosed among active duty service members. Untreated hypertension increases the risks of subsequent ischemic heart disease (heart attack), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), and kidney failure. CHART: Healthcare burdens attributable to cardiovascular diseases, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016 Major condition: •	For all other cardiovascular the number of medical encounters was 70,781, Rank 29, number of individuals affected was 35,794 with a rank of 30. The number of bed days was 4,285 with a rank of 21. •	For essential hypertension the number of medical encounters was 52,586, rank 35, number of individuals affected was 29,612 with a rank of 35. The number of bed days was 151 with a rank of 86. •	For cerebrovascular disease the number of medical encounters was 7,772, rank 79, number of individuals affected was 1,708, with a rank of 96. The number of bed days was 2,107 with a rank of 32. •	For ischemic heart disease the number of medical encounters was 6,629, rank 83, number of individuals affected 2,399 with a rank of 87. The number of bed days was 1,140 with a rank of 42. •	For inflammatory the number of medical encounters was 2,221, rank 106, number of individuals affected 1,302 with a rank of 97. The number of bed days was 297 with a rank of 72. •	For rheumatic heart disease the number of medical encounters was 319, rank 125, number of individuals affected 261, with a rank of 121. The number of bed days was 2 with a rank of 133. Learn more about healthcare burdens attributable to various diseases and injuries by visiting Health.mil/MSMRArchives. #LoveYourHeart Infogaphic graphic features transparent graphic of a man’s heart illuminated within his chest.

This infographic documents healthcare burdens attributable to cardiovascular diseases among active component, U.S. Armed Forces in 2016.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | Heart Health

Back to School Health and Safety Checklist

Infographic
8/4/2016
Health and Safety Checklist for Back to School

This infographic provides a going back to school health and safety checklist.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Immunizations

The HPV Vaccine Saves Lives

Infographic
5/16/2016
The Defense Department recommends male and female military service members, ages 17-26 years, receive an HPV vaccine series to generate a robust immune response to the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4). This graphic highlights information the benefits of the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is most effective among fully vaccinated individuals.   Cancer Prevention Facts •	HPV is the most common sexually  transmitted infection (STI) •	There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas •	Some HPV types give warts •	Some HPV types develop cancer  Effective Against STI Transmission •	The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from the virus •	The HPV vaccine provides nearly 100% protection from HPV types 6,11,16 and 18 •	HPV vaccine shows early signs of success in reducing HPV infections and related illnesses •	Protection is expected to be long-lasting  Safety Tips •	Getting your HPV vaccine and practicing safe sex such as wearing a condom may lower the risk of HPV •	Limiting the number of lifetime sex partners can also lower the risk of HPV •	When given the HPV vaccine, the body makes antibodies in response to the protection to clear it from the body  Get the Facts •	2,091 female service members aged 17-26 years received 1-3 HPV4 doses during 2006-2012, stratified by number of doses (1, 2, or 3).  Get the HPV Vaccine •	Only 22.5% of eligible service members initiated the series •	Of those, only 39.1% completed the full three-dose series as of June 2011.  Even though the 3 dose regiment provides nearly complete protection against HPV16 and HPV18, in the U.S., only 12% and 19% of female adolescents among commercial and Medicaid plans respectively complete the series.  Read HPV Facts from the CDC: https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/IMM_Teens_HPV_Facts.pdf  Read the STI issue of the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report at Health.Mil/MSMR   Get the conversation started. Ask your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine today. Follow us on Twitter @AFHSBPAGE and use hashtag #VaccinesWork.

The Defense Department recommends male and female military service members, ages 17-26 years, receive an HPV vaccine series to generate a robust immune response to the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4).

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunizations | Men's Health | Human Papillomavirus | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Women's Health

Breast Cancer

Infographic
5/9/2016
infographic about the breast cancer and how to protect against it.

In the U.S., with the exception of skin cancer, breast cancer accounts for the greatest number of cancer diagnoses in women and the second most common cause of female cancer-related deaths. This infographic shows seven ways to protect yourself from breast cancer.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Women's Health

Be Heart Smart

Infographic
2/1/2016
Be Heart Smart Infographic

Be More Active, Avoid Tobacco, Choose Better Nutrition

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Cervical Health Awareness Month

Infographic
1/11/2016
Infographic about Cervical Health Awareness month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Preventive Health Tip 4

Infographic
8/24/2015
Preventive Health Tip #4: Healthy Dental Habits

Encourage your child to practice healthy dental habits

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health

Preventive Health Tip 3

Infographic
8/17/2015
Preventive Health Tip #3: Healthy Snacks on Hand

Avoid obesity--keep a variety of healthy snacks on hand.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health

Preventive Health Tip 1

Infographic
8/1/2015
Preventive Health Tip for Back to School

Ensure your child has the recommended vaccinations and be aware of changes.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness
Showing results 1 - 9 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.