Should I get the shingles vaccine? If I've already had shingles, should I get the vaccine so that I don't get shingles again?
Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
People who are eligible to get it should get the Shingrix vaccine in the U.S.
Shingrix is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for adults age 50 and older for the prevention of shingles and related complications, whether they've already had shingles or not. You may get the Shingrix vaccine even if you've already had shingles. Also, consider getting the Shingrix vaccine if you've had the Zostavax vaccine in the past, or if you don't know whether you've had chickenpox.
Shingrix is a nonliving vaccine made of a virus component. It's given in two doses, with 2-6 months between doses. The most common side effects of a shingles vaccine are redness, pain, tenderness, swelling and itching at the injection site, and headaches.
The shingles vaccine Zostavax is no longer sold in the U.S. but may be available in other countries.
Although some people will develop shingles despite vaccination, the vaccine may reduce the severity and duration of it. It can also reduce the risk of postherpetic neuralgia, a shingles complication that causes shingles pain to continue long after the blisters have cleared. Studies suggest protection against shingles with Shingrix may extend beyond five years.
Talk to your doctor about your vaccination options if you:
- Have ever had an allergic reaction to any component of the shingles vaccine
- Have a weakened immune system due to a condition or medication
- Have had a stem cell transplant
- 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.
Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.
Sept. 21, 2021
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See more Expert Answers
- Shingles vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/. Accessed Sept. 9, 2021.
- Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. MMWR. 2018; doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6703a5external icon.
- AskMayoExpert. Herpes zoster (shingles). Mayo Clinic; 2019.
- Shingrix. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines/shingrix. Accessed Sept. 9, 2021.
- Albrecht MA, et al. Vaccination for the prevention of shingles (herpes zoster). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 9, 2021.
- Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/hcp/clinical-overview.html. Accessed Sept. 10, 2021.