Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Information

Herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is only transmitted by direct contact in those who have never had the chickenpox or have never received the chickenpox vaccine.

This can cause chickenpox, not shingles. One person cannot pass shingles to another person. Only people who have had chickenpox or have received a chickenpox vaccine can develop shingles. This is because the virus remains dormant (inactive) in the nerves for years. While it may cause no problems for most people, the virus sometimes reappears in older adults as shingles. Shingles is more common in adults older than 50 and those with a weakened immune system. It is estimated that at least 1 million people in the United States get shingles every year.

The symptoms of shingles include a painful, sometimes prickly or itchy blistering rash that usually appears on one side of the face or body, a fever, headache, chills, and an upset stomach. It is generally preceded by a tingling sensation in the area affected. The rash can last for two to four weeks. In some people shingles can lead to post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a severe pain that remains even after the rash heals. Other complications include, pneumonia, blindness, hearing problems, brain inflammation, and in severe cases, death.

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine Information

Studies showed that shingles vaccine may reduce the risk of shingles in those 60 years of age and older. The vaccine can also reduce pain and lower the risk of chronic pain associated with shingles.

Shingles vaccine is given as an injection into the arm underneath the skin, which is known as a subcutaneous injection.

Who Should Receive the Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine?

  • Adults 60 years or older

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine Schedule

A single dose for adults aged 60 and older

Shingles vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Side Effects

Mild-to-Moderate Problems

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Headache

Severe Problems (Rare)

  • Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
    • -Difficulty breathing
    • -Wheezing
    • -Hives
    • -Paleness
    • -Fast heartbeat
    • -Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain.

It is extremely rare for this vaccine to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, call the doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

Who Should Not Receive the Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccination

  • Those with moderate or severe illness (for example, a severe cold, flu or infection of the sinuses or lungs) should not receive the vaccine until symptoms of the illness improve.
  • People should not get the shingles vaccine if they have a weakened immune system for any reason, including:
    • -HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • -Treatment with corticosteroids for 2 weeks or longer
    • -Cancer or cancer treatment
    • -Active, untreated tuberculosis
  • Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should not get the vaccine. Women should avoid becoming pregnant until at least 3 months after getting the shingles vaccine.
  • People with an allergy or hypersensitivity to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin should not receive the vaccine.
  • Those who previously had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

Additional Information

Tell your doctor or a healthcare provider if the person getting the vaccine has any severe allergies.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at  cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.

This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Be sure to contact your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider for more information about human papillomavirus. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.


Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.

Vaccine Information Statement: shingles vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). April 12, 2006. cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/default.htm. Accessed April 2008.

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