Shingles vaccine

Also called zoster vaccine

The shingles vaccine protects against herpes zoster virus (shingles infection) and the painful complications of shingles.

Shingles is a painful, itchy, blistering skin rash that usually appears on one side your chest and back, but can also affect one of your legs or one side of your face. Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). Your risk of getting shingles increases as you get older. Read more about shingles.

The shingles vaccine reduces your risk of getting the shingles infection and, if you do get shingles, reduces the chance of developing complications.

On this page, you can find the following information:

Is the shingles vaccine available in New Zealand?

Yes, in New Zealand there are two brands of shingles vaccines – Zostavax and Shingrix.

Both vaccines are available to anyone 50 years and older but only free (funded) for people who are 65 years of age. Up until July 2022 Zostavax was the funded brand but the supplier is now discontinuing this product. From August 2022 as stock of Zostavax runs out, Shingrix will be the funded brand instead. Read more about the differences between Zostavax and Shingrix.

Why is vaccination against shingles recommended?

While shingles can gradually get better on its own, having the shingles vaccine can prevent you from getting shingles at all. If you do get shingles, it can prevent you from getting painful complications of shingles and prevent you from getting shingles again.

The most common complication from the shingles infection is the long-lasting nerve pain after the infection has gone. It is quite common (1 in 5 people experience it) and your risk increases as you get older. The pain can carry on for months to years after the infection, and is described as burning, sharp and jabbing, or deep and aching. This is called postherpetic neuralgia (also called nerve pain). 

Other complications from shingles infection if you have shingles on your face include glaucoma, vision loss, facial weakness and hearing loss. Some people have scaring that can last for several months after a shingles episode.

What are the differences between Zostavax and Shingrix?

While Zostavax and Shingrix both protect against shingles, they work in different ways and also vary in the number of doses required and their protectiveness.

Zostavax

  • Type of vaccine: Zostavax is called a live attenuated vaccine, which means it contains a weakened form of the shingles virus. 
  • Number of doses required: It is given as a single dose.
  • Protectiveness: It is moderately protective against shingles, protecting around 6 in 10 people aged from 60 years, but becomes less effective with advancing age. It provides greater protection against post herpetic neuralgia, including for people aged over 70 years. Read more about Zostavax.

Shingrix

  • Type of vaccine: Shingrix is a non-live vaccine, containing a protein that is found on the varicella-zoster virus known to produce a good immune response. 
  • Number of doses required: It is given as 2 doses, 2–6 months apart. 
  • Protectiveness: Two doses of Shingrix are highly effective at preventing shingles and shingles complications in more than 9 out of 10 people, with no loss in effectiveness with advancing age. A study found that this protection was maintained and more than 8 out of 10 people were protected against shingles for over 8 years. It is not yet known if a further booster dose will be required. Read more about Shingrix. 

References

  1. Herpes zoster (shingles) The Immunisation Advisory Centre
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 11 Jul 2022