While Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) does not cover the shingles vaccine, called Shingrix, some Medicare Advantage plans and some Medicare Part D plans may offer coverage for the vaccine.
Medicare Part B covers a small handful of vaccines for the flu, Hepatitis B and the pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine.
But because vaccines are categorized as a drug, these shots are typically covered by the prescription drug benefits offered by Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans.
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Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage (MA-PD plans) and Medicare Part D plans typically cover most commercially-available vaccines such as Shingrix.
There are two types of vaccines that are approved for use in defense of the singles virus: Zostavax and Shingrix.
Zostavax has been in use since 2006 and Shingrix has been an option since 2017.
Many Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage for Shingrix and/or Zostavax.
Both Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans are sold by private insurance companies.
Shingrix is the first new shingles vaccine to be developed in more than a decade, and in 2017, it became just the second shingles vaccine to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.1
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends Shingrix for people over the age of 50. Shingrix is a double-dose vaccine that is administered with a pair of shots in the upper arm that are generally given within 2-6 months apart.2
Shingrix is set to replace Zostavax as the primary defender against shingles.
Shingrix, a non-living vaccine, is displaying 97 percent protection for people between ages 50 and 69 and 91 percent protection for those ages 70 and up. Protection against shingles remains above 85 percent for at least four years after receiving Shingrix.
Shingrix is currently not recommended for people with compromised immune systems or those who are taking moderate to high doses of drugs that suppress the immune system.
Shingrix is also not recommended for anyone with a severe allergy to any component of the drug, and anyone who currently has shingles should wait until symptoms resolve before getting the shot.
Zostavax, a live vaccine, became available in 2006 and has shown to provide 70 percent protection against shingles for people between ages 50 and 59, but only 18 percent protection for those 80 and older.
Zostavax, which is also not covered by Original Medicare, is not recommended until the age of 60, while Shingrix can offer protection a full 10 years earlier.
You can compare Part D plans available where you live and enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan online when you visit MyRxPlans.com.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash or blisters typically on the torso and back. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox: the varicella-zoster virus.
If you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your body and can reawaken later in life as shingles. In addition to the pain and itching stemming from the rash, shingles can also bring on a fever, fatigue and headaches.
The exact reason for the virus re-emerging as shingles remains unclear, but it’s much more common in older adults and people with a weakened immune system. Shingles is contagious through direct contact with the rash or blisters, but is only contagious to people not immune to chickenpox.
If a person catches the virus from someone else, it will develop as chickenpox and not as shingles.
Contact a licensed insurance agent today to find out if a Medicare Advantage plan is available where you live that will cover the shingles vaccine.
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1 Umansky, Diane. The New Shingles Vaccine: What You Should Know About Shingrix. (Jan. 25, 2018). Consumer Reports. Retrieved from www.consumerreports.org/shingles-vaccine/new-shingles-vaccine-shingrix-what-you-should-know.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles Vaccination. (Last updated Aug. 22, 2018). Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html.
Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.
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