Herpes-Zoster Vaccine for Shingles


herpes-zoster vaccine


Shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral infection of the nerve roots that occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox starts up again in your body. There are two shingles vaccines (Zostavax II and Shingrix) approved for use in Canada. 

How It Works

When you receive the shingles vaccine, your body reacts by producing antibodies to fight against the herpes zoster virus.

Why It Is Used

Herpes zoster vaccine can prevent shingles or reduce pain and other symptoms in people who get shingles. Zostavax II is recommended for adults age 60 and over who have not received the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine.footnote 1 It is available to adults age 50 and older. They can get one dose, whether or not they've had shingles before. Shingrix is approved for use in adults 50 years of age and older. It is a two dose series given 2 to 6 months apart.

How Well It Works

Zostavax II prevents shingles in about 5 out of 10 of people who receive the vaccine. But the vaccine can reduce pain and other symptoms in people who get shingles after receiving the vaccine. Two doses of Shingrix has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by more than 90 per cent.

Side Effects

Side effects of the shingles vaccine may include pain, redness, swelling, and itching at the injection site. Headache and rash may also occur. Talk to your health care provider about vaccine-specific side effects.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The vaccine is less effective in preventing shingles the older a person gets. A person who receives the vaccine at 60 years of age is less likely to get shingles than someone who receives it at 80 years of age. But pain and other symptoms of shingles infection are often reduced in people who have received the vaccine.



  1. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (2010). Statement on the recommended use of herpes zoster vaccine. Canada Communicable Disease Report, 36(ACS-1): 1–19. Also available online: http://origin.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/10vol36/acs-1/index-eng.php.


Adaptation Date: 7/22/2020

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC

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