Shingles Prevention – Medicare Coverage and Vaccination Information
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so goes the old saying. Presently, Medicare Part B covers the flu, pneumococcal, and hepatitis B vaccines. Medicare does not, however, cover the shingles vaccination, but there is a good possibility this may change in the future.
At the moment, one in three persons will develop shingles. The good news is you can lower your risk for getting this disease with the Zostavax vaccine that was approved for shingles in 2006. It is recommended for those who are 60 years of age and up as a method of protection from the symptoms and complications of this disease.
Shingles, or Herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus (varicella zoster, VZV) that causes chickenpox. It is marked by pain, red rash, and fluid filled blisters. The virus is never leaves the body. it stays hidden and dormant in the nerve fibers of the body until some assault on the immune system reactivates it. Getting vaccinated with Zostavax, a chickenpox booster, can help prevent this painful event from intruding on your life. The vaccine is also effective in reducing the risks and complications of posterherpetic neuralgia.
How much does it cost?
Merck, the manufacturer of zostavax, is charging around $150 per injection. Hospitals and doctors are charging about $300. This cost may be out of reach for those who do not have medical coverage, or can not otherwise afford it.
Shingles occurs only in people who have had a prior case of chickenpox. Shingles can not be passed on to someone else as shingles. However, the virus can be passed to another via person to person contact, but if that person never had chickenpox, they are not immune for getting it. If you have never had varicella, it would be in your best interest to stay away from someone who is currently having an active infection, that is unless you want chickenpox.
Who gets the vaccine?
Zostavax is approved for seniors, but is contraindicated for some people due to other chronic illness that may be present, such as:
Any immune disturbance
People who have had chemotherapy treatment for cancer
History of cancer
If you are currently suffering from any illness
if you are on steroids or anti-rejection drugs
If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant
If you are planning to get this vaccine, avoid pregnancy for at least three months after having the injection.
The vaccine carries very little risk, however there is always the chance of having a reaction, particularly if you have an allergy to gelatin. Check with your health care provider to see if this vaccine will benefit you.
If you are having a lot of stress in your life, which is a risk factor for getting shingles, stress management is important to reduce your risk. You can try yoga, imagery, meditation, and biofeedback, as well as many other modalities that help to reduce stress.
Whether you have Medicare or some other private insurance, check your policy or give your agent a call to see if your Zostavax vaccine is covered.