Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in the nerve tissues and later reactivate, causing shingles.  The shingles vaccine is a preventive measure against shingles.

Vaccine Types

There are currently two shingles vaccines available: Zoster Vaccine Live (Zostavax) and Recombinant Zoster Vaccine (Shingrix). Zostavax was the first shingles vaccine introduced, while Shingrix is the newer and more effective vaccine.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Shingrix is highly effective in preventing shingles and its complications. It is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and reduces the risk of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) by more than 90% as well. Zostavax is less effective, with a lower rate of protection against shingles and PHN.

Vaccine Schedule

For Shingrix, the vaccine is administered in two doses, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first dose. It is important to complete both doses to achieve optimal protection. Zostavax is administered as a single dose.

Eligibility and Recommendations

The shingles vaccine is recommended for individuals aged 50 years and older, regardless of whether they have had chickenpox or a previous shingles episode. Even if you have had shingles in the past, getting vaccinated can help prevent future occurrences. Shingrix is preferred over Zostavax due to its higher effectiveness.

Vaccine Side Effects

Like any vaccine, the shingles vaccine can cause side effects. Common side effects include pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site, as well as muscle pain, fatigue, headache and gastrointestinal symptoms. These side effects are usually mild and resolve on their own. Severe reactions are rare.

Vaccine Safety

The shingles vaccine has been extensively studied and is generally considered safe. However, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of any known allergies or previous adverse reactions to vaccines before getting vaccinated. They can evaluate your individual situation and provide guidance based on your medical history.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to discuss your eligibility for the shingles vaccine, understand the specific recommendations in your region and address any questions or concerns you may have. They can provide personalised advice based on your age, medical history and risk factors.