Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
What is shingles?
Shingles, also called Herpes Zoster, is a painful skin rash that often appears on one side of the face or body and typically lasts from 2 to 4 weeks. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach.
Shingles is caused by the same virus (Varicella Zoster) that causes chickenpox. Only those who have had chickenpox — or in rare instances the chickenpox vaccine — can get shingles. Even after recovering from chickenpox, the virus stays inactive only to reactivate years later for reasons not fully understood.
Who Should Get Shingrix?
Shingrix is available in doctor’s offices and pharmacies. To find doctor’s offices or pharmacies near you that offer the vaccine, visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
What about the vaccine?
In clinical trials, the vaccine reduced the risk of developing shingles by 50%. (Source: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/shingles.html) It can also reduce pain in people who still get shingles after being vaccinated.
Who should get vaccinated?
Because the risk of developing shingles increases with age, healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. You should get Shingrix even if in the past you
- had shingles
- received Zostavax
- are not sure if you had chickenpox
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, you can get Shingrix to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
You can get Shingrix whether or not you remember having had chickenpox in the past. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans 40 years and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember having the disease. Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus (varicella zoster virus). After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
If you had Zostavax in the recent past, you should wait at least eight weeks before getting Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
Who should NOT get vaccinated or should wait?
You should not get Shingrix if you:
- have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix
- tested negative for immunity to varicella zoster virus. If you test negative, you should get chickenpox vaccine.
- currently have shingles
- currently are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should wait to get Shingrix.
If you have a minor acute (starts suddenly) illness, such as a cold, you may get Shingrix. But if you have a moderate or severe acute illness, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.
What about side effects?
No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine.
Mild side effects could include:
- Redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the site of the vaccination
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