Herpes Zoster Vaccine
There are two herpes zoster vaccines. The newer herpes zoster vaccine is preferred over the older herpes zoster vaccine because it provides better and longer-lasting protection.
For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Recombinant shingles vaccine information statement and the Live shingles vaccine information statement.
(See also Overview of Immunization.)
The herpes zoster virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox resolves, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated years later and cause shingles, which is a painful rash, usually on only one part of the body. The rash resolves after several weeks, but postherpetic neuralgia, which causes severe chronic pain, can last for months or years. Herpes zoster can also cause other problems due to malfunction of the nervous system (such as problems with vision, hearing, or balance).
The newer recombinant herpes zoster vaccine is given in two doses, injected into a muscle. The doses are given 2 to 6 months apart and at least 2 months after the older herpes zoster vaccine.
The newer recombinant vaccine is recommended for people aged 50 and over whether or not they have ever had shingles or been given the older herpes zoster vaccine.
Certain conditions may affect whether and when people are vaccinated (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?). If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves.
The most common side effects of the newer (recombinant) herpes zoster vaccine are pain, soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site and headache, fatigue, muscle pain, shivering, fever, and digestive upset.
The most common side effects of the older (live-attenuated) herpes zoster vaccine are soreness, redness, swelling, and itching at the injection site and headache.