What are shingles
Shingles is a viral infection affecting the nerve and surrounding skin, also known as herpes zoster. It is caused due to a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Some of the main symptoms of shingles are similar to the symptoms of chickenpox. These can include a high temperature or fever, a headache and a characteristic rash which can also be painful or itchy.
While you will usually only get chickenpox once in your life, the virus that causes it remains in your body. If the virus becomes active again at a later date, it causes shingles rather than chickenpox.
The risk of getting shingles increases with age and you are more likely to get it if your immune system is weakened, for example due to illness or a medical procedure. While you can’t catch shingles from someone with chicken pox or shingles, you can pass on the chickenpox virus while you’re experiencing a bout of shingles.
The shingles vaccine protects against shingles and effectively reduces your risk of developing the condition. The shingles vaccine is not designed to protect against chickenpox.
We offer vaccination against shingles with the highly effective new non-live shingles vaccine Shingrix manufactured by GSK.
- Shingrix is a non-live vaccine used in adults aged 50 years and over to protect against shingles (herpes zoster) and post-herpetic neuralgia (long-lasting nerve pain following shingles)
- It can also be used from the age of 18 years and over in adults who are at increased risk of shingles
This is an inactivated vaccine which is over 90% effective against the prevention of shingles infection and over 88% effective at preventing the debilitating Post Herpetic Neuralgic complication of Shingles.
This is currently the most effective vaccine available against shingles and unlike the Zostavax, there is no reduction in effectiveness of the vaccine with age.
The vaccine is indicated for all individuals over the age of 50 years to prevent shingles infection. It works by boosting the body’s own natural immunity to the virus that causes the infection (Varicella Zoster).
Method of Administration
Number of Doses
Interval between Doses
From 50 years of age
Intramuscular injection to the deltoid muscle of the upper arm
Ideally 2 months
2nd dose can be given up to 6 months after 1st dose
Duration of Protection and Booster Doses
Study data shows persisting immunity for up to 4 years after completion of 2nd dose. Duration of protection beyond this time frame is still current being studied. The need for booster doses is unknown.
- Individuals under 50 years of age
- Anyone with active Shingles infection
- Severe allergic reaction to previous dose of Shingrix or any of it’s components.
- Pregnancy and Breast Feeding
- Acute febrile illness (fever of >38.5 degrees Celsius).
Common Side Effects
Localised reactions can include:
- Swelling Pain at injection
- Swelling of the vaccinated limb can also occur but is uncommon
Generalised Reactions can include:
- Gastrointestinal upset-nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
As the vaccine is not live, there is no risk of transmission of infection to others following vaccination.
The vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccinations if required.
The price is £440 for the full course of 2 vaccines given 2 months apart.
The shingles vaccine contains a weakened strain of Varicella zoster virus. Based on a large study of more than 38,000 adults over the age of 60 years, it was found to reduces the risk of shingles by 51% and the risk of Post Herpetic neuralgia by 67%. In those over 70 years of age, the reduction in risk was 38% and 66.8% respectively.
If shingles still develop after the vaccine it is thought the condition is milder and last for a much shorter time than usual. The shingles vaccine currently does not require a booster and therefore it is thought that vaccination against shingles will last a lifetime.
The vaccine can be given to:
- Anyone over the age of 50 years for the prevention of Shingles infection and Post Herpetic neuralgia.
Method of Administration
Number of doses
From 50 years
Intramuscular injection or Subcutaneous injection to the deltoid
The full duration of protection following vaccination is not known, but the latest data suggests that the vaccine lasts for about 5 years. It is currently not known if booster doses are required.
The price is £165 for one dose of the vaccination.
The vaccine must not be given to:
- Anyone with active shingles infection
- Anyone with suppressed immune system due to disease process or drugs.
- Pregnant women
- Previous history of severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or any of it’s ingredients (see FAQ section)
- Acute infection with fever (greater than 38.5 degrees Celsius)
- Active untreated Tuberculosis
- The vaccine cannot be used to treat shingles infection or post herpetic neuralgia-only to reduce the likelihood of them occurring in the first place.
- It is currently advised that you should wait 1 year after recovery from an episode of shingles before you have the vaccination. This is because following an infection, you get a natural boost in your immune response, which may make the vaccine less effective.
- If you have 2 or more episodes of shingles in a year, you need to be assessed by a specialist prior to being considered for vaccination.
- If you are on antiviral treatments by mouth or have received these treatments by injection, such as Aciclovir, you must wait 48 hours after stopping the medication before receiving the vaccine can be given. This because the antiviral medication may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine virus. This does not apply to topical antivirals.
The shingles vaccine cannot be given to pregnant women. Additionally, pregnancy should be avoided for 1 month after receiving the vaccination.
It is not known if the vaccine virus is transmitted in breast milk and thus harm to the baby cannot be eliminated. Therefore, it should not be given to breast feeding mothers.
Common Side Effects
- Injection site reactions-pain, redness, haematoma, hardening of the skin.
- Headaches and pain in the limbs or joints
- Rarely-Chickenpox like illness with rash-occurs in less than 1 per 10,000 people vaccinated
- If a shingles-like rash or Chickenpox-like rash occurs, this needs to be assessed by a doctor and a swab taken to check if the vaccine virus is responsible.
- Risk of transmission
- Pregnant women who have never had Chickenpox infection
- Newborn babies (those from 0 to 28 days old)of mothers who have never had Chickenpox infection
- Anyone with poor immune system.
Interactions with Other Vaccines
- Diphtheria, Tetanus, polio vaccine
- Influenza vaccine
- All travel vaccines apart from Yellow Fever (see below)
- Pneumonia vaccine, including PPV-23.
Shingles Vaccine and MMR vaccine
Shingles Vaccine and Yellow Fever Vaccine
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