Dear Dr. Roach: I’m writing in regard to your recent column about a 56-year-old person, recommending he or she wait till 60 for the shingles shot. In 2010 I was 56 and was told by my insurance company that they would not cover the shot till I was 60. Unfortunately, that year I suffered a shingles attack that started on the back of my head and moved into my left eye. I spent an extremely painful and stressful year, not being able to see well and going through medical treatments. My cornea was permanently damaged, and each time I have tried to stop the eyedrops I am taking, the blurriness returns. So, I have told all my friends and family to get the shingles shot as soon as possible. I hate to see anyone go through what I did! — G.J.
Answer: I thank G.J. for writing. To be clear, I do recommend the shingles shot beginning at age 50. The column was about a person nervous to get the shot during the coronavirus pandemic. I said it was OK to wait because the risk of serious complications of shingles at age 50 is low.
However, as G.J. points out, the risk of complications from shingles, even at a younger age, is not zero. I do recommend the vaccine starting at age 50, but the older a person is, the greater the risk of shingles complications, and thus the more benefit they are likely to get from the vaccine.