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Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is a common disease — almost 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime. The good news is that the shingles vaccine, called Shingrix®, is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles.

Shingrix is the preferred shingles vaccine over Zostavax®, a shingles vaccine that’s been used since 2006.

Due to high demand, call your doctor’s office or pharmacy to make sure the Shingrix vaccine is available. To find a place to get vaccinated near you, use the vaccine finder.

Shingles causes a painful rash and blisters — and it can lead to serious complications. The most common complication is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a condition that causes burning pain that can last long after the shingles rash and blisters go away. The older you are when you get shingles, the more likely you are to develop PHN.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent shingles and PHN.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the chickenpox virus stays dormant (asleep) in your body. The virus can activate (wake up) years later and cause shingles.

Symptoms of shingles include:

  • A painful rash and blisters on 1 side of the face or body
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

Shingles can’t spread from person to person like chickenpox. But if you have shingles, you can spread the virus to someone who isn’t immune to (protected from) chickenpox — meaning someone who hasn’t had chickenpox and isn’t vaccinated against it. If that happened, the person might get chickenpox — but not shingles. Learn more about shingles.

Adults age 50 and older need to get 2 doses of Shingrix. You’ll need the second dose 2 to 6 months after the first dose. You need to get Shingrix even if you:

  • Have already had shingles
  • Have been vaccinated against shingles with Zostavax
  • Are not sure if you’ve had chickenpox

A note on Zostavax: Zostavax is a shingles vaccine that may still be used in certain cases for healthy adults age 60 and older. For example, you could get Zostavax if you’re allergic to Shingrix — or if you’d simply prefer it. Read more about Zostavax.

Talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself from shingles.

You should not get Shingrix if you:

  • Have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix
  • Are not immune to the virus that causes chickenpox — if you test negative for immunity, you’ll need to get the chickenpox vaccine
  • Currently have shingles
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

If you’re sick and have a fever of 101.3°F or higher, you’ll need to wait until you’re feeling better to get the shingles vaccine.

Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:

  • Pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle pain
  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain or upset stomach

Serious side effects from the shingles vaccine are very rare.

Like any medicine, there's a very small chance that the shingles vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the shingles vaccine is much safer than getting shingles. Learn more about vaccine side effects.

Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines.

Last reviewed: February 2018