Q. I keep seeing scary TV commercials about shingles, urging people to get the vaccine. Should I?

A. Yes, if you're 60 or older, says Marvin M. Lipman M.D., Consumer Reports' chief medical adviser. Shingles, or herpes zoster, occurs when the chicken pox virus reactivates later in life, causing a blistery rash almost always in a limited area on one side of the body. Because there was no chicken pox vaccine until 1995, some 99.5 percent of adults born in the U.S. who are older than 40 were infected in childhood and therefore still have the virus present in their bodies. Once the rash clears up, usually within three to six weeks, about 20 percent of sufferers are left with mild to severe nerve pain, or postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), that can last for months or even years. 

The shingles vaccine, Zostavax, available since 2006, reduces the chance of shingles by only 51 percent. But if you do get shingles even after getting the vaccine, it will still ease the severity of the symptoms and cut the risk of having PHN by 67 percent. 

So why wait until age 60? The risk of shingles rises with age—possibly as a result of a weakened immune system—so it's best to get the vaccine at age 60 or later, when you're most likely to need it. The current shingles vaccine's effectiveness begins to wane after just five years and no booster is currently licensed, though research is actively underway. Additionally, a two-dose shingles vaccine that may offer significantly more protection is in the works though not yet approved.

Also be aware that the current shingles vaccine is not always well-covered by insurance. And it's pricey, $200 or more, so check your insurance so that you're prepared.

For more information, read "Even If You've Had Shingles, Get the Zostavax Vaccine."

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.