Who should get the shingles vaccine? If I've already had shingles, should I get the vaccine so I don't get shingles again?
Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.
The shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is recommended for adults age 60 and older, whether they've already had shingles or not. Although the vaccine is approved for people age 50 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn't recommending it until you reach age 60.
The shingles vaccine is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm. The most common side effects of the shingles vaccine are redness, pain, tenderness, swelling and itching at the injection site, and headaches.
Some people report a chickenpox-like rash after getting the shingles vaccine.
Although some people will develop shingles despite vaccination, the vaccine may reduce the severity and duration of it.
The shingles vaccine isn't recommended if you:
- Have ever had an allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine
- Have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
- Are receiving immune system-suppressing drugs or treatments, such as steroids, adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), radiation or chemotherapy
- Have cancer that affects the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma
- Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
The cost of the shingles vaccine may not be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or insurance. Check your plan.
Dec. 05, 2014
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Prevention of herpes zoster: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2008;57:1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5705a1.htm. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Shingles vaccination: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/vacc-need-know.htm. Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.
- Zostavax (herpes zoster vaccine) questions and answers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/UCM070418. Accessed Nov. 6, 2014.
- Zostavax (prescribing information). Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co. Inc.; 2011. http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/z/zostavax/zostavax_pi2.pdf. Accessed Nov. 6, 2014.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Update on herpes zoster vaccine: Licensure for persons aged 50 through 59 years. MMWR. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6044a5.htm?s_cid=mm6044a5_w. 2011;60:1528. Accessed Nov. 6, 2014.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Update on recommendations for use of herpes zoster vaccine. MMWR. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6333a3.htm?s_cid=mm6333a3_w. 2014;63:729. Accessed Nov. 6, 2014.