You’ve had chickenpox years before. All of a sudden, you develop another rash. This time, it is coupled with an intense nerve pain. You ask yourself why it is happening as experts claim that most people become immune to chickenpox after getting it the first time.
Yes, the experts’ claim is partly true. However, the varicella-zoster virus which is the main culprit for your chickenpox stays in your system forever, just in the hiding. Some of them reawaken after a long time causing the shingles, which you might be experiencing right now.
Shingles is a kind of infection the affects the nerve of an individual and the skin that is being supplied by the nerve. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, or the varicella-zoster virus. Although it is not a life-threatening disease, the rashes that shingles bring can cause debilitating pain and in rare cases, even blindness.
Shingles can affect any people of any age, particularly those who have recovered from chickenpox. But because the effects and complications of shingles are greater for people 60 years old and above, and their risk of getting it is very high, a vaccine specifically for this age group is recommended to prevent and treat shingles. Although most doctors recommend that patients wait after a year before getting this shot.
How much does a shingles shot cost and what are the factors affecting the shingles shot rate?
Average Cost of Shingles Vaccine
The average shingles vaccine cost according to Amino.com is $366 if you do not have insurance depending on where you get the shot.
CDC listed the retail price of Zoster Vaccine Live (Zostavax) at $212.67 excluding Federal excise tax, while its average retail price in various pharmacies is $268.84.
The following are the estimated cash retail price of 1 vial of Zostavax 0.65ml at popular pharmacies:
- Costco – $223.93
- Wal-Mart – $233.54
- CVS Pharmacy – $244.49
- Target – $244.49
- Walgreens – $249.99
- Safeway – $254.99
- Kroger Pharmacy – $274.00
- Rite Aid – $339.99
What are Included
The price of shingles vaccine that Amino.com indicated typically includes two cost components, namely:
- The cost for facility charges – these are the charges for the facility and the professional fee of the doctor – $127
- The cost for the procedure – This is the cost of the vaccine itself – $239
Since the protection of single shot of shingles vaccine lasts for five years, you may have another shot after that period or your doctor may recommend a booster.
Also, those who may experience mild side effects may spend additional cost for some medications to treat those symptoms like Paracetamol for a headache.
Shopping for Shingles Vaccine
You may start looking at various facilities and practitioners that offer the shingles vaccine through Amino.com’s locator.
For those who cannot afford to pay for the price of shingles vaccine and do not have health insurance, the pharmaceutical company Merck offers free shingles vaccines. But please take note that these are limited to those who will meet their criteria. You may also call them through Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance program at 1-800-293-3881 for more information.
Factors Affecting Cost of Shingles Vaccine
It is essential to know how much does a shingles shot cost, but it is also equally important to understand what are the factors that affect its prices to be able to decide for the best options. Some of these factors include:
- Insurance – the Affordable Care Act or ACA required all health insurance to cover all types of vaccines that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice or ACIP recommends, including the shingles vaccine. But there are times you may still get billed depending on the circumstances. Some of these are when you had the shot to treat existing shingles and when the doctor performing the immunization is not within the network of your insurance provider.
- Doctor – the professional fees for administering the vaccine vary depending on the rate of the doctor.
- Pharmacy – different pharmacies offer varying shingles shot rate so it is important to check out the cheapest among them. According to GoodRx.com, the cheapest Zostavax 0.65ml are offered by Costco at $223.93 or 16% cheaper than the average retail price of $268.84
- Type of shingles vaccine – the Zostavax or the Zoster Vaccine Live is recommended for adults 60 years old and above only since it has not been tested to be as effective to younger patients. However, another vaccine called the Varicella Virus Vaccine Live or the Varivax may be opted for younger patients to treat and prevent infections of chickenpox. This variant is cheaper and costs $115.16 as per CDC.
- Location – the area where the vaccine is being administered can also affect the shingles vaccine cost. Amino.com listed Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY at $320 per shot as the cheapest while the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI as the most expensive at $471.
Who needs a shingles vaccine?
It is said that anyone, child or adult, who has recovered from chickenpox can get shingles. But who really needs the shingles vaccine?
The Center for Disease Control recommends that if you are over 60 years old, regardless of whether you have had chickenpox and shingles or not, you need to get the shingles vaccination. This is because it is said that the older you get, the more likely you get infected with shingles. This is especially true for those 85 years old who have 25% to 50% chances of getting the shingles.
However, there are some conditions that are not recommended to get the shingles shot as it may have an adverse effect on the patient. These are the following:
- If patient have allergy to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
- If the patient have HIV or AIDS
- If a patient is taking steroids as those found in some asthma treatments and pain management medications
- If the patient undergoes radiation or chemotherapy to treat cancer
- If the patient is pregnant, suspected to be pregnant, or planning to get pregnant
Side Effect of Shingles Vaccine
The Zostavax or the Zoster Vaccine Live are generally safe with a few exceptions reporting minimal side effects that include mild cases of headaches, injection site swelling, itching, swelling, pain, warmth, bleeding, and bruising.
As a disclaimer, the shingles vaccine does not guarantee that the person who received the immunization would no longer get the virus. Instead, it claims to reduce the risk of contacting it by 51% and reduces the nerve pain the shingles caused or the post-herpetic neuralgia by 67% to 70%.
Currently, only one pharmaceutical company which is the Merck manufactures the shingles vaccine and there are no generic versions of the Zostavax or the Zoster Vaccine Live.
As a matter of advice, get your shingles shot at a pharmacy that is within the network of your drug plan. This way, you will pay the lowest possible out-of-pocket costs that are available under your plan.