Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, in their lifetime. Shingles can be caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Who Can Get Shingles?
Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles, even children. The risk of shingles increases with age, and about half of all cases occur in men and women older than 60. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.
How Does Shingles Affect the Body?
Shingles will affect your body in multiple ways. The main symptoms you should look for if you think you are experiencing shingles are:
Tingling in area where rash may develop
Rash will develop on side of face or body
Rash will form blisters
If experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately for emergency care.
There are two vaccines currently available to prevent shingles.
Zostavax® Is a live, attenuated virus given as a single, sub-cutaneous injection. It is approved for people age 60 and older. A newer vaccine was approved in late 2017 that is more effective, so Zostavax® may not be available much longer.
Shingrix® is a non-live vaccine for shingles given as two intramuscular injections 2-6 months apart. It is approved for people age 50 and older.
Who Should Receive Shingles Vaccine?
Anyone age 50 and older who has had a previous case of varicella (chickenpox) should receive 2 doses of Shingrix®.
Anyone who previously received a dose of Zostavax® should receive 2 doses of Shingrix®.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Shingles Vaccines?
A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
No serious problems have been identified with the shingles vaccines.
Mild problems that have been reported include:
Injection site pain (reported in 1 person in 3 receiving Zostavax®, 3 out of 4 people receiving Shingrix®.
Redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the site of the injection (about 1 person in 3).
Headache (about 1 person in 70).
Like all vaccines, the shingles vaccine is being closely monitored for unusual or severe problems.