Shingles (Zostavax)Vaccine

Shingles (Zostavax)Vaccine

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the chickenpox virus. After you have recovered from chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in your nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when your immune system is weakened and present as shingles. Approximately 1 in 5 people who have had chickenpox (usually during childhood) go on to develop shingles.

Shingles be very painful and uncomfortable, some people are left with long-lasting pain called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) for years after the initial rash has healed. Very occasionally, shingles can be fatal.

Who can have the  vaccination?

Shingles vaccination is available to all people during their 70th year.

How is the shingles vaccine given?

The vaccine is given into the muscle of the upper arm.

Do I need to have the shingles vaccination every year?

No, it is a one-off injection.

How does the shingles vaccine work?

The vaccine contains a weakened chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus). that is similar, but not identical to, the chickenpox vaccine.

Very occasionally (fewer than 1 in 10,000 individuals), people develop a chickenpox-like illness following shingles vaccination .

Is the vaccine safe?

Research shows that the shingles vaccine is very safe. and has few side effects. Common side effects include:

  • headache
  • redness, pain, swelling, itching, warmth and bruising at the injection site

If any side effects carry on for longer than a few days; or  if you develop a rash after having the shingles vaccination, please speak to your GP or the nurse who administered the vaccine.

There is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction  to the shingles vaccine. The person administering the vaccine will deal with this promptly should it occur.

Can you catch chickenpox from the shingles vaccine?

There have been very few occasions (fewer than 1 in 10,000 individuals) when a person has developed  chickenpox after having the following shingles vaccination. 

How long will the shingles vaccine protect me for?

It is difficult to be precise, but research suggests the shingles vaccine will protect you for at least 5 years.

Can I have the shingles vaccine with other vaccines?

Yes. It is safe and may be more convenient for you to have the shingles vaccine at the same time as your flu vaccine in the autumn.

Will the shingles vaccine stop me getting shingles?

The vaccine does not guarantee you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chances. If you do get shingles, the vaccine will likely make the symptoms milder and the illness shorter. You will also be less likely to get shingles complications, such as post-herpetic neuralgia.

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I have never had chickenpox?

Yes. The chances are that you have had chickenpox at some point without knowing it. (Some people have chickenpox without showing any of the typical symptoms, such as a rash).

Should I have the shingles vaccine if I’ve already had shingles?

Yes. The shingles vaccine will boost  immunity against further shingles attacks in people who have had shingles before. 

Who should not have the shingles vaccination?

You should not have the shingles vaccine if you have:

  •  a weakened immune system (for example, due to cancer treatment or on immuno-suppressant medication)
  • had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of any of the substances in the vaccine, such as neomycin and gelatin
  • had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of the chickenpox vaccine
  • an untreated TB infection

Click here to view leaflet on the shingles vaccine.