A painful but common condition in older adults is shingles or herpes zoster. I’ve known several elderly people afflicted with this, and I will absolutely get the vaccine as soon as I turn 60!
The vaccine, Zostavax, is FDA-approved for ages 50 and up, but the Cleveland Clinic recently advised that it’s not cost effective for anyone under 60 to get immunized.
Why? Because Zostavax is too expensive. On average, it costs about $200, and that doesn’t include the cost for the office visit or vaccine administration that some clinics charge.
The vaccine is effective for 10-12 years, so if you get it around age 50, you will need to get it again at age 60. Risk increases with age.
And there is some confusion about which vaccines for adults are paid for and by whom.
I have friends who think all vaccines are now covered at no cost because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But that’s not quite true.
Vaccines are covered only if they are recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). And ACIP doesn’t advise the shingles vaccine for anyone under age 60.
So if you are 50-59 and want to be vaccinated for shingles, you would have to pay out of pocket, or at least check with your insurance company first. Some insurance companies may cover it, but don’t assume!
If you have Medicare, Zostavax is covered by Medicare Part D, rather than Part B as are other vaccinations. Some Part D plans require co-pays.
The pharmaceutical company that makes Zostavax, Merck, heavily markets the vaccine with television commercials and prints ads. Not surprisingly, these ads emphasize the pain and misery of shingles.
Shingles is miserable and the vaccine is effective. Just be aware that if you are under 60, you will probably have to pay for it yourself.
And since risk increases with age, waiting until 60 is not inappropriate.
Related post: Adults need immunizations, too!