People 60 and older should get a one-time shingles shot that can help prevent the painful rash, U.S. health officials are recommending.
There's a 50-50 chance the shot will prevent shingles for those 60 and up, though the odds get worse the older you get. But shingles can be severe for some people, and the government believes it's worth the $160-per-dose cost.
Caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, shingles is a blistering skin rash most common in older people. It usually ends after four weeks, but one in five victims develop long-term nerve pain. Other complications include scarring and loss of vision or hearing.
The chickenpox infects about 95 percent of Americans, although some suffer mild illness and may not know they've had it. As many as one in three infected people develop shingles later in life.
Even those who have already had shingles should get the shot if they are over 60, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The vaccination was recommended by an influential government advisory panel in 2006. The CDC officially adopted the recommendation this week.
The announcement should encourage more doctors to give the shot and lead more private insurers to pay for it, said Kelley Dougherty of Merck & Co., the drug company that makes the only available shingles vaccine.
About 2.5 million doses have already been distributed.