You’re at risk for shingles only if you’ve had chickenpox. Your best line of defense against shingles and its eye complications is the shingles vaccine. The CDC recommends that all adults over age 50 receive the new shingles vaccine Shingrix. You’ll need two Shingrix shots two to six months apart to be fully protected.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if you’ve already been vaccinated with the older shingles vaccine, Zostavax, since the latter’s protective effects wane with age.
Shingrix was shown to be more than 90 percent effective in adults over age 50 in a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in May 2015. And it remains 88 percent effective four years after vaccination, according to a follow-up study in the same journal in September 2016.
Shingrix has been equally effective at preventing ocular shingles, according to a review published in 2018 in BMJ. In two trials involving more than 14,000 patients, Shingrix also proved superior to placebo at preventing the virus from emerging in the eye, whereas Zostavax did not.
This article first appeared in the December 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.