Vaccinations

Shingles vaccine FAQs

What is shingles?

How do you catch shingles?

Is shingles serious?

How common is shingles?

How is the shingles vaccine given?

Who will be able to have the shingles vaccination?

How do I get the shingles vaccination?

Do you need to have the shingles vaccination every year?

Will there be any side effects from the shingles vaccination?

What about people who aren't yet 70? Will they get the shingles vaccination? 

What about people who are aged 73-77. Can they have the vaccine?

Why can't I have the shingles vaccination if I'm over 80?

Which people shouldn't have the shingles vaccine?

Will the shingles vaccine stop me getting shingles? 

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've never had chickenpox? 

Should I have the shingles vaccine if I've already had shingles?

Can I get the shingles vaccine privately?

 

What is shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus).

Read more about shingles symptoms.

How do you catch shingles?

You don't "catch" shingles  it comes on when there's a reactivation of chickenpox virus that's already in your body. After you've recovered from chickenpox the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in your nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when your immune system is weakened. Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles.

Read more about the causes of shingles.

Is shingles serious?

Yes, it can be. Not only can shingles be very painful and uncomfortable, some people are left with long-lasting pain called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) for years after the initial rash has healed. Very occasionally, shingles can be fatal.

How common is shingles?

Around one in five people who have had chickenpox (usually in childhood) go on to develop shingles. That means that tens of thousands of people in England and Wales will get shingles each year.

How is the shingles vaccine given?

It's given as an injection into the upper arm.

Who will be able to have the shingles vaccination?

It is available to all 70-year-olds and, until the last day of August 2017, to 78-year olds too.

People who were eligible for immunisation in the first three years of the programme but have not yet been vaccinated against shingles also remain eligible until their 80th birthday. These are people:

  • aged 71, 72 and 73 on 1 September 2016
  • aged 79 on 1 September 2016

Anyone aged 80 and over is unsuitable to have the shingles vaccination on the NHS because it seems to be less effective in this age group.  

Read more about who can have the shingles vaccine.

How do I get the shingles vaccination?

You don't need to do anything. Your GP will invite you to the surgery for the vaccination. You can have it at the same time as your flu jab in the autumn if you wish.

Do you need to have the shingles vaccination every year?

No, it's a one-off single injection.

Will there be any side effects from the shingles vaccination?

It's quite common to get redness and discomfort at the vaccination site as well as headaches, but these side effects shouldn't last more than a few days. See your GP if you have side effects that last longer than a few days, or if you develop a rash after having the shingles vaccination.

Read more about the side effects of the shingles vaccine.

What about people who aren't yet 70? Will they get the shingles vaccine?

People under the age of 70 will get the shingles vaccine during the year following their 70th birthday. It's not available on the NHS to younger people, because shingles is more common in the over-70s.

What about people aged 74 to 77. Can they have the vaccine?

Not at the moment. The shingles vaccine is available on the NHS only for people aged 70 and 78 on 1 September 2016 (and to people aged 71, 72, 73 or 79 who haven't been vaccinated yet).

The shingles vaccination programme is being staggered this way as it would be impractical to vaccinate everyone in their 70s in a single year.

Why can't I have the shingles vaccination if I'm over 80?

The vaccine doesn't work as well in people over the age of 80.

Which people shouldn't have the shingles vaccine?

You shouldn't have the shingles vaccine if:

  • you've had a serious allergic reaction, such as an anaphylactic reaction, in the past to any of its ingredients, such as neomycin (your GP can tell you if this applies to you)
  • you have a weakened immune system (again, your GP can advise you)

Will the shingles vaccine stop me getting shingles?

It won't guarantee that you won't get shingles, but it will reduce your chances. And, if you do get shingles, the vaccine will likely make the symptoms milder and the illness shorter. You'll also be less likely to get shingles complications such as postherpetic neuralgia.

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've never had chickenpox?

Yes. The chances are that you have had chickenpox at some point without knowing it. Some people have chickenpox without displaying any of the typical chickenpox symptoms like rash.

Should I have the shingles vaccine if I've already had shingles?

Yes. The shingles vaccine works very well in people who have had shingles before to boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.

Can I get the shingles vaccine privately?

The shingles jab is available privately for anyone over the age of 50. It's expensive and in very short supply, though. Expect to pay between £100 and £200. Your GP can advise on whether it's safe for you to have, but you may need to visit a private clinic to arrange this.

 

Page last reviewed: 28/07/2015

Next review due: 28/07/2017

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