On a page titled “What Everyone Should Know about Zostavax,” the CDC would like you to know that they’d prefer that you use Shingrix instead.
Until recently, the only vaccine available for the prevention of shingles was Zostavax; a position it had enjoyed since being approved for use in 2006. Shingles comes from the same virus that causes chickenpox; a fact that is highly emphasized in Zostavax’s marketing campaign. If you’re familiar with the ominous warning that “if you’ve ever had chickenpox, the virus that causes shingles is already inside you,” then you’re keenly aware of the commercials that occasionally come to dominate various TV shows and sporting events.
Zostavax has not been without its problems; the most significant of which may be that it is barely effective enough to be considered a vaccine at all. While it’s effectiveness against post-herpetic neuralgia is 67 percent, the vaccine marketed as an answer to the prevention of shingles is only 51 percent effective against the condition.
By comparison, Shingrix has been shown to be upward of 97 percent effective and the CDC goes so far as to say that those who have been inoculated with Zostavax should also get a Shingrix vaccination.
In addition to its lackluster performance in preventing shingles, Zostavax lawsuits filed earlier this year claimed that the vaccine actually causes the very condition it is intended to prevent. In May of 2018, Zostavax manufacturer Merck moved to have 57 Zostavax lawsuits consolidated into a multi-district litigation in anticipation of additional lawsuits being filed in the future. Merck also changed the wording of its Zostavax warning labels to reflect the link between the vaccine and the possibility of contracting shingles after using it.
While the CDC’s site specifies both Zostavax and Shingrix as “one of the recommended vaccines” in the prevention of shingles, the agency makes its actual preference in the matter quite clear.