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Understanding the Shingles Vaccine

Experts talk to WebMD about a new vaccine that cuts the risk of shingles by 50%.

Who Will Pay?

Another unresolved issue is the vaccine's price. Experts believe that the vaccine will cost about $100 to $150. While it's plausible that private insurance companies will cover it, no one knows for sure.

"I know several groups are running cost-benefit analyses on the vaccine now," says Dworkin. "The insurance companies will look carefully at those numbers."

Most people over 65 will probably get some coverage from MedicareMedicare for the vaccine. Right now, Zostavax is expected to be covered by Medicare's prescription drug plan, called Medicare Part D. But as millions of Americans have recently discovered, understanding the details of their Medicare drug coverage can be complicated, to say the least.

One problem is that there are hundreds of Part D plans to choose from. Coverage for the vaccine could vary between them.

"Personally, I think that covering the vaccine is a great investment for Medicare or any insurance company," says Gilden. He says that paying for the vaccine will save insurers the cost of treating people who would otherwise get shinglesshingles. "But right now, we don't know what Medicare or any of the insurance companies will do," he says.

Seeing Your Doctor

Experts agree that there's no question that people over 60 should get the vaccine, provided they can afford it.

"If you were to get shingles, you'd suffer a great deal of pain, a high risk of complications, and lots of medical bills," says Gilden. "Getting the vaccine is very good insurance."

If you're under 60, but worried about shingles -- or feel you are at high risk -- talk to your doctor.

"For now, deciding whether the vaccine should be given to people under 60 is something that a person has to work out with his or her health care provider," says Dworkin.

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