The shingles vaccine protects against herpes zoster virus (shingles infection). Find out about the vaccine and possible side effects. The shingles vaccine is also called Zostavax.
On this page, you can find the following information:
- What is the shingles vaccine?
- Why is vaccination against shingles recommended?
- Who should get the shingles vaccine?
- Who should NOT get the shingles vaccine?
- What if I have had shingles recently?
- If I have shingles now, can I get vaccinated?
- How is the shingles vaccine given?
- Can the shingles vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines?
- Can I get the shingles vaccine if I am taking antiviral medicines?
- What are the side effects of the shingles vaccine?
- Where can I get vaccinated?
Shingles is a painful, itchy skin rash that usually appears around your chest and back, but can also affect your legs or face. Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). Read more about shingles.
The shingles vaccine reduces your risk of getting the shingles infection and if you do get it, reduces the chance of developing complications (see below).
While shingles can get better on its own, having the shingles vaccine can prevent you from getting shingles at all. If you do get shingles, vaccination can prevent you from getting the complications of shingles and prevent you from getting shingles again.
The most common complication from the shingles infection is pain after the infection has gone and 1 in 5 people experience it. 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 include glaucoma, vision loss, facial weakness and hearing loss.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, the shingles vaccine is called Zostavax. One dose of Zostavax is recommended, and is available free for people aged 65, but is no longer free for people in the 66+ age group.
People aged 50-64 years who are at increased risk of shingles may also want to think about having the vaccination. Ask your doctor or nurse if you are unsure. It is not free for this group.
|You may be at increased risk of shingles if you have:|
As with any vaccine, the effectiveness decreases over time. This may mean that protection is lost in older age when there is a higher risk of developing shingles and having more serious complications. When you are vaccinated you are about 70% protected. After a year you are about 50% protected. By 7–8 years after vaccination, you are around 32% protected. Your doctor can help you decide when to have the shingles vaccine.
If you have had the shingles vaccine in the past and are worried about how effective it is likely to be now, speak to your doctor. There is no information about whether another dose (booster) of the shingles vaccine provides any benefit. Although there are no recommendations, adults who have previously received the shingles vaccine can receive a second dose after 1 year. There are no safety concerns about receiving a second dose.
The shingle vaccine is a live vaccine. This means that it contains weakened viruses that cannot cause infection but makes your body produce the antibodies it needs in case you are exposed to or get the infection later in life.
Live vaccines, like the shingles vaccine, can cause an infection in people with very weakened immune systems and should not be used in people with leukaemia, lymphoma, other conditions affecting your bone marrow, tuberculosis (TB) or in people having immunosuppressive therapy such as chemotherapy. Check with your doctor if you are unsure if you are in this group.
It should also not be given to children and pregnant women.
If you have had shingles recently, your immunity to shingles has been boosted and this reduces the chances of you getting shingles again. Therefore it is recommended that you wait at least 1 year before getting the shingles vaccine.
The shingles vaccine is used to prevent shingles and it will not help if you already have shingles. If you have shingles, it is recommended that you wait at least 1 year before getting the shingles vaccine.
The shingles vaccine is given as an intramuscular injection (injected into the muscle on your upper arm). It is given as 1 dose.
The shingles vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine and the tetanus vaccine. If given at the same time, you will receive the vaccines at separate places on your arms and with different syringes.
There must be at least a seven day gap between the shingles vaccine and any of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Nuvaxovid). This is to ensure a good immune response to each vaccine in older adults. Read more about COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines.
If you are taking anti-viral medicines such as acylovir, they should be stopped for 24 hours prior to having the shingles vaccine and for 14 days after having the shingles vaccine. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for more information.
The shingles vaccine has an excellent safety record and is generally well tolerated. Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.
|Side effects||What should I do?|
Read more: After your immunisation
|Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product|
The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.
If you don’t have a family doctor, you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Phone them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need.
You can find a clinic near you on the Healthpoint website. Put in your address and region, and under Select a Service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.
Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.
The following links provide further information on shingles vaccine:
- Zostavax The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
- Quick answers to frequent Zostavax questions The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ, 2020
- Herpes zoster (shingles) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
- Zostavax Consumer Information Medsafe, NZ
- National Immunisation Schedule Ministry of Health