New shingles vaccine may be more effective an older version, experts say

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The National Institute of Health estimates there are a million new cases of shingles in the United States every year, and a new vaccine is causing some excitement and confusion. (KABC)

The National Institute of Health estimates there are a million new cases of shingles in the United States every year.

Shingles are chicken pox reactivated, and it can be painful, leave scars, and cause permanent damage.

A new vaccine on the market since mid-December is causing a lot of excitement and some confusion among doctors and patients.

Kathryn Wolf, 57, had a bad case of chicken pox as a child and has seen friends with bad cases of shingles as an adult.

She got the old vaccine, but is getting the new one, too.

"I still wanted the vaccine because if there's any way that I can help prevent getting shingles, I'm going to do it," Kathryn said.

University of Utah infectious disease chief doctor, Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, thinks it's a good idea.

Shingles can cause blisters, pain, scarring and a condition called post herpetic neuralgia.

"What that means simply is pain, and this pain can last for months, and even indefinitely in people who have had a case of shingles. So they can have throbbing, splitting headaches that never go away," Swaminathan said.

In November, the CDC Advisory Committee recommended a new vaccine for people over the age of 50, even if they had the old vaccine.

At $280, doctors said the new Shingrix vaccine is expensive but worth it because it tests better.

"The efficacy is over 90 percent, in fact, over 95 percent in some cases for almost all age groups, even those over the age of 80, where it's been tested," Swaminathan said.

It is made from a protein of the virus, not a live virus, like the old vaccine. Kathryn likes that, even though she has to get a second booster shot in a month or so.

Swaminathan said most people get redness or pain from the injection, and sometimes fever or fatigue for a day or so.

The vaccine isn't recommended for people with weakened immune systems yet, but Glaxo Smith Kline is now running trials that may make it possible for this high-risk population in the near future. That wasn't possible with a live virus.
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