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Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine

Herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine – Shingrix (Var-SI)


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Immunization protects you from disease.
​​Get protected, get immunized.

  • Vaccines make your immune system stronger by building antibodies, which help prevent diseases.
  • Immunization is safe. It is much safer to get immunized than to get this disease.​

What is the Shingrix vaccine​?

The Shingrix vaccine prevents you from developing herpes zoster, also known as shingles.

This vaccine doesn’t prevent chickenpox and it’s not a treatment for shingles or shingles nerve pain (post-herpetic neuralgia).

​Who should get the Shingrix vaccine?
If you are age 18 years and older and you’ve had or are going to have an organ transplant, you should get this vaccine. In this case the vaccine is free.

If you are age 50 years and older and you’re not having an organ transplant, you can get this vaccine, but you need to pay for it.

You can get the Shingrix vaccine even if you:

  • had shingles in the past
  • are not sure if you had chickenpox

You need to wait 1 year after having shingles before you get the shingles vaccine.

The Shingrix vaccine is only licensed for people age 50 years and older, but vaccine experts agree that younger people who have had or are going to have an organ transplant should get it (this is also called off-label use). Talk to you healthcare provider to decide if this vaccine is right for you.

How many doses do I need​?

​You need 2 doses of the Shingrix vaccine. You get the second dose 2 to 6 months after the first dose. You need both doses to make sure you have long-lasting protection against shingles.

At this time, booster (extra) doses aren’t recommended. Research is ongoing to find out if you will need a booster dose.

How well does the vaccine work​?

If you are healthy and get both doses, the protection against shingles is about 90%. Protection lasts at least 4 years.

Are there other vaccines that protect against shingles?

Zostavax is another type of vaccine that protects against shingles. It provides less protection against shingles than the Shingrix vaccine.

You can get the Shingrix vac
cine if you had the Zostavax vaccine. You need to wait at least 1 year before you get the Shingrix vaccine after you’ve had the Zostavax vaccine.

Where can I get the Shingrix vaccine?

If you can get the Shingrix vaccine for free, you can contact a public health office in your area.

If you want the vaccine and need to pay for it, contact a private immunization clinic. You can also talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if they sell the vaccine. ​

Are there side effects from the Shingrix vaccine?

There can be side effects from the Shingrix vaccine. They tend to be mild and go away in a few days. Side effects may include:

  • redness, swelling, itching, or feeling sore where you had the needle
  • feeling tired or unwell
  • a headache
  • a fever or chills
  • body aches
  • feeling sick to your stomach (nausea), stomach pain, vomiting (throwing up), or loose stool (diarrhea)

It is important to stay at the clinic for 15 minutes after your vaccine. Some people may have a rare but serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis happens, you'll get medicine to treat the symptoms.

It's rare to have a serious side effect after a vaccine. Call Health Link at 811 to report any serious or unusual side effects.

How can I manage side effects?

  • To help with soreness and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle.
  • There is medicine to help with a fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure what medicine or dose to take. Follow the directions on the package. 
  • Some people with health problems, such as a weak immune system, must call their doctor if they get a fever. If you’ve been told to do this, call your doctor even if you think the fever is from the vaccine. ​

Who should not have the Shingrix vaccine​?

You may not be able to get this vaccine if you:

  • have an allergy to any part of the vaccine
  • had a severe (serious) or unusual side effect after this vaccine or one like it
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have shingles or had shingles in the last year
  • had the Zostavax vaccine in the last year

You can still have the vaccine if you have a mild illness such as a cold or fever. Always tell your healthcare provider if you have allergies or if you’ve had a side effect from a vaccine in the past.

Check with your doctor or a public health nurse before you get the vaccine.

Facts about shingles

What is shingles?

  • Shingles is a painful, blistering rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox.
  • Most people develop shingles in one part of the body. It can last for several weeks.
  • The nerve pain from shingles (called post-herpetic neuralgia) can be severe and last for months or years. The pain can prevent you from doing daily activities such as walking, sleeping, or visiting with friends and family.
  • People with shingles may develop other problems. These include scarring in the area of the rash, skin infections, weakness, loss of hearing or sight (vision), or having trouble moving your muscles (called paralysis).
  • Some people with shingles may need to be in the hospital if they are very unwell. In rare cases, shingles can cause death.

How do you get shingles?

If you had chickenpox disease in the past, you can develop shingles. The virus stays in the nerve cells in your body. It can stay there for many years and not cause a problem. But for some people the virus can become active again and cause shingles, especially if you have a weak immune system or are older. 

Who is most at risk?

You are at risk for shingles if you had chickenpox in the past. Your risk for shingles is higher if you have a weak immune system or if you are over age 50 years. You can also develop shingles if you got the chickenpox vaccine, but the risk is very low. 

About 1 in 3 Canadians will develop shingles.​

For more information

Current as of: September 1, 2021

Author: Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services