Time to think about adult vaccines

by Andy Dallas

As the 501 gets ready this fall for another cold and flu season, it is a good time to think about which vaccines are recommended. The three main vaccines recommended for adults are flu, pneumonia and shingles.  


Flu shots are recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months who do not have an allergy or other contraindication. Most insurances cover flu shots for no copay including Medicare Part B.

There are many new options in flu shots, including ones for people with egg allergies and for ages 65 and older, so talk to a health care professional about which one is best for you.

Andy Dallas, PharmD, is a pharmacist at Baker Drug Store in Downtown Conway.


There are two pneumonia vaccines available for adults, Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. It is recommended for all adults over the age of 65 to get one dose of each vaccine at least one year apart, with Prevnar being the first. If you received a dose of either vaccine before you turned 65, you should get revaccinated after you turn 65. Pneumonia vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B for no copay.

For adults from 18 to 65 years old, a pneumonia vaccine is recommended if you have any chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and other disorders. Most insurances cover pneumonia vaccines for no copay as part of a wellness program.


Shingles is a painful rash that can flare up if you had chickenpox as a child. The Herpes Zoster virus lays dormant and can come back as shingles. You cannot catch shingles from someone with an active rash, but you could get chickenpox if you were never exposed or vaccinated against it.

Studies show that more than 99 percent of adults over 40 had chickenpox even if they don’t remember having it. The main complication from shingles is postherpetic neuralgia which is pain that can last after the rash is gone due to nerve damage from the disease.  

There are two shingles vaccines available for adults over 50. Zostavax was launched in 2006 and is indicated for prevention of shingles in adults 60 and older. It is a live attenuated vaccine that is about 51 percent effective at preventing shingles and 67 percent effective in preventing post herpetic neuralgia. Since it is a live vaccine it is contraindicated for people with a weakened immune system or on medications that suppress the immune system. 

In 2018, Shingrix was released and was immediately the preferred of the two options. Shingrix is not a live vaccine, so there are less restrictions on who can receive it. It is more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles and is recommended for all adults ages 50 and older, including those who had previously received a dose of Zostavax. 

Shingrix is a two-dose series with the second dose coming two to six months after the first. Most private insurances cover Shingrix for no copay, but for people on Medicare it is covered through part D or your drug plan. This means all of the copays, deductibles and coverage gaps apply and cost can range anywhere from $30 to $170 per dose unless you qualify for lower copays. 

Due to unanticipated demand there were immediate shortages of the vaccine and now Glaxo has it on allocation where you can only order 10 doses at a time. If you want to get Shingrix in the near future, check around or get on a waiting list because it will be in short supply for the time being.