Options for Shingles Vaccine

January 2018

By Christine Cheng, R.Ph. and Fred Cheng, R.Ph. 

Q: I’ve heard there is a new vaccine against shingles coming out. What are the main differences between the two options?

A: Zostavax®II is the vaccine against shingles that most people have heard of. It is a live, attenuated virus vaccine, meaning that the virus has been weakened in the lab. Although the virus can still replicate and produce an immune response (and possible mild disease), it should not cause a full-blown outbreak of the disease. On the other hand, Shingrix is a non-live vaccine that combines an antigen from the virus with an adjuvant; it can stimulate the immune response without causing the disease. Both vaccines are indicated for those 50 years of age or older. Having an adjuvant is an important consideration for those who are elderly as the adjuvant promotes a more robust immune response. This is evidenced by the efficacy trials which showed Zostavax®II having a 51% efficacy at preventing shingles versus 96% efficacy for Shingrix.

Other points to consider are that Zostavax®II requires just one dose given sub-cutaneously, whereas Shingrix is given as a 2-dose series given intramuscularly between 2-6 months apart. Neither vaccination is indicated for those who are immuno-compromised. Both vaccines can prevent post-herpetic neuralgia. It is theorized that Shingrix’s immunity may last longer than Zostavax®II.

Those who have had the Zostavax®II can still benefit from Shingrix; it is advised to wait at least 8 weeks after Zostavax®II to receive Shingrix.

Although ideally cost is not the most important factor to consider, it should be noted that the up-front cost of a single Zostavax® II vaccine is higher, the total cost of 2 doses of Shingrix required to complete the series makes the Shingrix the more expensive option in the long run.

Christine and Fred Cheng are a passionate, charismatic sister-brother pharmacist team at their unique, family-owned and operated Pharmasave stores in Cloverdale and Steveston, B.C. They specialize in natural remedies and compounding for both human and veterinarian use. Everything mentioned in their article is available InStore. 

***All information posted and shared by Cloverdale Pharmasave is offered to provide information and choices regarding nutritional support for various health concerns, none of which is intended to be a treatment protocol for any disease state. The information does not replace seeking professional advice from your physician. Consult your health care practitioner before taking dietary supplements.

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