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Shingles Vaccine


What is the shingles vaccine?

The shingles vaccine is an injection to protect you from the varicella-zoster virus. This virus causes chickenpox. After you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body for several years without causing any symptoms. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again. The active virus travels along a nerve to your skin and causes a painful rash. The rash can be dangerous if it is near one of your eyes. A shingles outbreak can also cause chronic nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN can last a long time after you heal from shingles.


When should I get the shingles vaccine?

You can get the shingles vaccine even if you do not know if you had chickenpox. The vaccine comes in 2 forms. Your healthcare provider will tell you which form is right for you:

  • The recombinant zoster vaccine is given in 2 doses, 2 to 6 months apart to adults age 50 years or older. This vaccine is more commonly used. You can also get this vaccine if you were given the live zoster vaccine before. This vaccine does not contain any live virus.
  • The live zoster vaccine may be used if you have not received the shingles vaccine before. The vaccine is given in 1 dose to adults age 60 years or older. The vaccine may also relieve pain if you get shingles even after you get the vaccine.

What should I tell my healthcare provider before I get the shingles vaccine?

Your provider will decide which vaccine is right for you based on your age and any medical conditions you have. Tell him or her if:

  • You have any severe allergy, or know you are allergic to any part of the shingles vaccines.
  • You had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the recombinant zoster vaccine.
  • You have a weak immune system, such as from HIV, cancer, or cancer treatment.
  • You know or think you are pregnant. Your provider will tell you when to come in for the shingles vaccine.
  • You are breastfeeding. Your provider will tell you if it is okay to get a shingles vaccine while you are breastfeeding.

What are reasons I should wait to get the shingles vaccine?

You are sick or have a temperature of 101.3°F (38.5°C) or higher.

What are the risks of the shingles vaccine?

You may develop a rash that looks like chickenpox near the injection site. The site may also be red, sore, swollen, or itch. The live vaccine has a small risk of causing shingles. You may get shingles even after you receive either vaccine. You may have an allergic reaction. Rarely, this can be life-threatening. The live zoster vaccine may be harmful to an unborn baby. Do not plan to become pregnant for at least 1 month after you get this vaccine.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, swelling in your throat, or hives.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a high fever or behavior changes that concern you.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns about the shingles vaccine.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.