FDA approves shingles vaccine for people 50 years and older

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the shingles vaccine for anyone age 50 and above, but some health departments are sticking with the old guidelines for now.

Areas such as Manatee County in Florida are requiring that anyone younger than 60 see a private doctor to obtain the vaccine, due to potential shingles vaccine shortages. Other departments, such as the Sarasota County Health Department, plan to make the vaccine more available and to raise awareness that eligibility begins at age 50, the Bradenton Herald reports.

The chickenpox virus, which causes the highly contagious childhood illness, remains in the body for decades and can re-emerge in the senior years to cause shingles. Shingles involves a painful rash with complications that can linger for months or years. As many as 25 percent of adults will develop shingles, with most of the cases happening after the age of 50. After age 70, shingles can be more painful with worse outbreaks.

The shingles vaccine has been found to reduce the risk of shingles by 50 percent and to lower the chance of the painful complication known as post-herpetic neuralgia by 67 percent. In addition, those who get the vaccine but still develop shingles will likely have lighter outbreaks and more protection from post-herpetic neuralgia, according to the Bradenton Herald.